by Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz via Unsplash

A Sacramento woman who repeatedly punched a flight attendant on a San Diego-bound Southwest Airlines flight was sentenced to 15 months in federal custody. 

Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, was ordered by U.S. District County Judge Todd. W. Robinson to pay $25,982 in restitution and a $7,500 fine, and imposed three years of supervised release. She will be prohibited from flying on commercial aircraft and must participate in anger management classes or counseling, among other conditions. 

“Violence on aircraft endangers the lives of all on board,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital jobs to ensure passenger safety, will not be tolerated. We will pursue criminal charges against those who violate the law both at the airport and aboard aircraft while in flight.”

Quinonez pleaded guilty last year to one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, admitting that she assaulted a flight attendant by punching her in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbing her hair.

Prosecutors said in her plea agreement on May 23,  Quinonez was a passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 700 from Sacramento International Airport to San Diego International Airport. She failed to comply with federal rules and regulations, was not wearing her seat belt, pulled her tray table down, and was not wearing her facemask properly during the flight’s final descent. 

Court documents state that Quinonez failed to comply when a flight attendant instructed her to fasten her seatbelt. A short time later, another flight attendant instructed Quinonez to fasten her seat belt and stow her tray table for her own safety and wear her mask correctly. Quinonez did not comply and talked back to the flight attendant while shouting profanities.

The plea agreement states Quinonez began filming the flight attendant on her cellphone and pushed the flight attendant. Quinonez admitted she stood up and intentionally assaulted the flight attendants. 

Another passenger sitting a few rows ahead captured the assault on video. According to prosecutors, Several passengers attempted to stop Quinonez by grabbing at her clothing and arms. Court documents state that the passenger sitting directly in front of Quinonez told investigators that she believed she “softened the blows” by grabbing Quinonez’s arm.

​​A male passenger sitting nearby jumped between Quinonez and the flight attendant, instructing Quinonez to sit down.

Prosecutors said that the flight attendant was taken to the hospital and sustained several injuries.
Three of the flight attendant’s teeth were chipped, resulting in two teeth later being replaced by crowns. The flight attendant’s left eye was bruised and swollen; she sustained a cut under her left eye, requiring three stitches; and she had a bruise in the shape of fingers on her right forearm. 

In a letter filed with the court, the Vice President of Inflight Operations for Southwest Airlines stated that Quinonez “created a situation onboard Flight 700 that jeopardized the entire flight and created an unsafe environment.” She explained that Quinonez’s “actions negatively impacted our workgroup beyond description . . . causing fear to come permanently into the workplace.” The letter concluded, “Southwest hopes that the ultimate sentence imposed in this matter will serve as a deterrent for others who may contemplate engaging in similar dangerous behavior aboard our aircraft.”  

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy said Quinonez’s sentence “should send a very strong message to air travelers – the FBI will vigorously pursue anyone who assaults or interferes with flight crews”. 

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