Southwest Airline passenger, 29, who broke flight attendant’s teeth in vicious midair attack is sentenced to 15 months in prison and banned from flying for three years

  • A federal judge sentenced Vyvianna Quinonez to 15 months in federal prison on Tuesday for the May 2021 attack on a flight attendant identified only as S.L.
  • Quinonez was on a May 23, 2021 Southwest Airlines flight when S.L asked her to buckle her seatbelt, stow her tray table and wear her mask during the descent
  • Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone, pushed her, then stood up and punched the woman in the face and grabbed her hair
  • The assault was recorded on another passenger’s cellphone
  • According to the plea agreement, the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, 2 of which needed crowns, along with bruises and a cut under her left eye 
  • So far in 2022, there have been 1,419 reports of undisciplined passengers, with 1.6 incidents per 10,000 flights for the week ending on May 15

An unruly passenger who was caught on camera viciously attacking a Southwest Airlines flight attendant during a flight, breaking her teeth, has been sentenced to over a year in prison. 

A San Diego federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez to 15 months in federal prison on Tuesday, ordering her to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine for the May 2021 attack on a flight attendant identified only as S.L.    

Quinonez was on a May 23, 2021 Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego when S.L asked her to buckle her seatbelt, stow her tray table and wear her mask properly during the descent – all violations of federal rules and regulations.

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A San Diego federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez (pictured)  to 15 months in federal prison on Tuesday

A federal judge ordered Quinonez to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine for the May 2021 attack on a flight attendant identified only as S.L.

The flight attendant lost two teeth and suffered other injuries to her face and was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital 

Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone, pushed her, then stood up and punched the woman in the face and grabbed her hair before other passengers intervened, authorities said.

The assault was recorded on another passenger’s cellphone.

According to the plea agreement, the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of which needed crowns, along with bruises and a cut under her left eye that needed stitches. 

Passengers on the plane captured pictures of the attendant following the incident tending to her bloodied face and leaving the plane in a wheelchair. 

Now Quinonez, of Sacramento, is prohibited from flying for three years while she is on supervised release and must participate in anger management classes or counseling.

Last year Quinonez pleaded guilty to one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, admitting she punched the flight attendant in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbed her hair. 

‘Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital jobs to ensure passenger safety, will not be tolerated,’ U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement after the sentencing.

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

The incident marked an escalation in unruly behavior by airline passengers that has become more frequent on airplanes and at airports as air travel picks up a year on from the pandemic.

In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that airlines have reported a total of 5,981 incidents involving unruly passengers, with 4,290 of them involving passengers who refused to wear masks on board their flights.

The agency has proposed $5,000,000 in fines against trouble-making passengers.

So far in 2022, there have been 1,419 reports of undisciplined passengers, with 1.6 incidents per 10,000 flights for the week ending on May 15, according to the FAA’s website.

Since January 2021 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a zero-tolerance policy, the agency has proposed fines of about $7 million for disruptive passengers. 

Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone, pushed her, then stood up and punched the woman in the face and grabbed her hair before other passengers intervened, authorities said

Last year Quinonez admitted she punched the flight attendant in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbed her hair

Passengers on the plane captured pictures of the attendant following the incident tending to her bloodied face

The flight attendant, who was not named, was pictured with a bloodied face and wheeled off the flight in a wheelchair

In April the FAA said they would make their ‘zero tolerance policy’ permanent even after a court ended transportation mask requirements.

That month the FAA issued its highest fines to date on passengers: a $81,950 fine on an American Airlines passenger who shoved a flight attendant and spit on crew members; and a $75,000 fine on a Delta Air Lines passenger who bit a fellow passenger after trying to hug and kiss another.

The FAA said neither incident that led to the high fines involved passengers who objected to wearing masks. 

The FAA proposed the $81,950 fine for an American Airlines passenger on a July flight from Dallas, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina, alleging the passenger ‘threatened to hurt the flight attendant that offered help to the passenger after she fell into the aisle. The passenger then pushed the flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door.’

The FAA added ‘two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, but she repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants on the head. After the passenger was restrained in flex cuffs, she spit at, headbutted, bit and tried to kick the crew and other passengers.’

American said in July that it banned the passenger from flying on the airline.

‘We applaud our crew for their professionalism and quick effort to protect those on board,’ the statement said.

The agency also proposed a $77,272-fine for a Delta passenger on a July Las Vegas to Atlanta flight, alleging the passenger ‘attempted to hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her; walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit during flight; refused to return to her seat; and bit another passenger multiple times.’

Delta said Friday it ‘has zero tolerance for unruly behavior at our airports and on our flights as nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people.’

Neither passenger was identified. They have 30 days to respond to the accusations.

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