A California woman arrested for punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant and busting three of her teeth has pleaded guilty in the brutal attack, federal prosecutors said.
Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 28, was caught on camera decking the flight attendant and leaving her bloodied and bewildered as Southwest Airlines Flight 700 descended into San Diego from Sacramento on May 23.
Prosecutors said the flight attendant had asked Quinonez — who wasn’t wearing her face mask properly — to put it on correctly, to fasten her seatbelt and put up her tray table.
But Quinonez instead attacked the flight attendant, first pushing the woman before unleashing several vicious punches as shocked passengers looked on. The in-flight attack was filmed by another flier.
The flight attendant, identified only as S.L. in court documents, was injured during the brutal assault — with bruises to her left eye and a facial cut that required three stitches. Three of her teeth were also chipped, leading to two of them being replaced with crowns, federal prosecutors said.
“The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,” Acting US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason, particularly toward a flight attendant who is there to keep all the passengers safe.”
Quinonez, who pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight attendant, is set to be sentenced on March 11. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors will likely recommend a sentence of four months behind bars and six months of home confinement, KGTV reported.
Quinonez has also been banned from flying again on Southwest Airlines. She previously claimed she acted in self-defense and another passenger accused the flight attendant of provoking the high-profile in-flight incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received 5,779 reports of unruly passengers this year, including more than 4,100 involving federally mandated masks on planes.
“The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial,” the agency’s website reads. “They can be fined by the FAA or prosecuted on criminal charges.”
Passengers can be fined up to $37,000 per infraction — an increase from the previous cap of $25,000 — and one incident can lead to multiple fines, the agency said.
Southwest Airlines did not comment on the case late Wednesday, the New York Times reported.