A woman plead guilty in federal court Wednesday to repeatedly punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant on a San Diego-bound plane.
A woman identified as S.L by court documents was struck by a Sacramento woman, Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, on a May 23 flight from Sacramento to San Diego. The attacker will be sentenced in March where she may face a $250,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison, though prosecutors said they may recommend a sentence subject to change of four months in custody and six months of home confinement.
According to the U.S Attorney’s office, S.L. asked Quinonez to wear her face mask properly, fasten her seat belt, and stow her tray table. Quinonez admitted in a plea agreement to actions prompting other passengers to intervene, including striking S.L in the face, head, pushing the flight attendant and grabbing onto her hair.
Court documents state the victim sustained injuries that include three chipped teeth which were replaced with crowns, a bruised left eye and a cut in her eye that received stitches.
With the rise of pandemic-induced restrictions, airlines have seen increased tension and passengers lashing out in aggressive behavior. As of Dec.21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports 5,779 unruly passenger reports, 4,156 mask related incidents reported and 1,054 incidents investigated.
On Tuesday, the FAA announced that passengers who received for unruly behavior could result in TSA PreCheck privileges to be revoked. As part of the FAA's Reauthorization Bill (PDF) FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000. One incident can result in multiple violations.
“TSA has zero tolerance for the unruly behaviors, especially those involving physical assault occurring aboard aircraft. We have tremendous respect for airport staff, gate agents and flight crews that get people safely to their destinations,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.