An unruly passenger who practically knocked two teeth out of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant’s mouth last year was sentenced to 15 months behind bars, law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.
Vyvianna Quinonez, 29, who dealt the violent thrashing in a fit of fury over run-of-the-mill commands from unsuspecting attendants, was also ordered to undergo anger management sessions or counseling, pay a $7,500 fine, and foot a $26,000 restitution bill.
“Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital jobs to ensure passenger safety, will not be tolerated,” FBI special agent in charge Stacey Moy said in a statement after the sentencing. “Today’s sentence should send a very strong message to air travelers — the FBI will vigorously pursue anyone who assaults or interferes with flight crews.”
Quinonez was flying from Sacramento, California, to San Diego via Southwest on May 23, 2021, when an attendant directed her to buckle her seatbelt, wear a mask, and stow in compliance with flight policy as the plane readied for a descent, at which point Quinonez unleashed a flurry of punches straight to the face of the attendant and began grabbing her hair, according to a plea agreement. The flight attendant was brought to the hospital with three chipped teeth, a bruised eye, a “bruise in the shape of fingers” on her right forearm, and the need for three stitches, per the plea agreement. Two of her teeth required crowns.
New video shows an altercation between Vyvianna Quinonez and a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. A union representative says the flight attendant lost two teeth when she was struck. Quinonez who was arrested on battery charges claims it was self-defense. pic.twitter.com/aCAHGHxF5b
— CBS 8 San Diego (@CBS8) May 26, 2021
Michelle Manner, a passenger who recorded the confrontation, argued that both Quinonez and the flight attendant were in the wrong, saying the attendant provoked the exchange by leaning over her.
“I heard the passenger say three times something to the effect of, ‘Get off of me. Don’t lean on me,'” Manner said, according to WFAA. “The passenger was incorrect by hitting her, but she was also, in my opinion, provoked.”
There have been 1,419 incidents involving unruly passengers in the year to date as of Tuesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Most of the incidents were mask-related, with roughly 4,290 of last year’s 5,981 episodes reported by the FAA involving masks.
Last month, the FAA levied its largest fine ever on a passenger. The disgruntled passenger was fined over $80,000 after she got so out of hand that officials duct-taped her to her chair, according to the FAA.