A California woman who repeatedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last year, causing her face to bleed and chipping three of her teeth, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Friday, prosecutors said. .
The woman, Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, will also have to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. A video of the attack, which occurred in May 2021, was widely viewed on social media.
United States District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson also ordered Ms Quinonez to be released on probation for three years after serving her sentence, during which time she will be prohibited from flying on any commercial aircraft.
The assault came amid a wave of unruly and violent behavior from passengers who pushed, punched and yelled at flight attendants. Days after the attack, two major airlines, American and Southwest, postponed plans to resume serving alcohol on flights, in a bid to end the behavior. Both airlines have since resumed alcohol sales.
“Violence on planes endangers the lives of everyone on board,” Randy Grossman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said Friday. “Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital duties to ensure the safety of passengers, will not be tolerated.”
A lawyer for Ms Quinonez, who pleaded guilty in December in connection with the assault, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday evening.
In a letter filed with the court on May 20, Ms Quinonez apologized for assaulting the flight attendant. She said she was depressed and humiliated because of the negative attention. The experience, she says, “changed me profoundly.”
On May 23, 2021, near the end of a flight from Sacramento to San Diego, a flight attendant asked Ms. Quinonez to buckle her seatbelt, put on her tray table and “wear her face mask properly “, prosecutors said.
Ms Quinonez used her phone to film the flight attendant and pushed the woman, prosecutors said. The attack escalated from there, as captured On video by another passenger.
Ms. Quinonez, who was sitting in an aisle seat, got up and punched the attendant in the face several times, according to the video. She also grabbed her hair before the woman could walk down the aisle. Several passengers grabbed Ms. Quinonez’s clothes in an attempt to arrest her.
Prosecutors said the flight attendant, who was not named in court documents, was taken to hospital with injuries that included a swollen eye, a bruised arm and a cut under the arm. eye that had to be sewn up. They said she also had three chipped teeth, two of which had to be replaced with crowns.
In a May 18 letter to Judge Robinson, a Southwest representative said the company wanted the sentence to act as a deterrent to unruly and violent behavior. The letter said the company’s leadership team had heard from “countless flight attendants” who felt attacked during a pandemic that has pushed fear around travel to an all-time high.
“What happened on Flight 700 was absolutely horrific,” wrote Sonya Lacore, Vice President of Southwest. “In my more than 20 year career at Southwest, I have never seen such an inexcusable and violent assault of a flight attendant by a passenger. Worse still, the incident was captured on video and broadcast on television channels and the media.
“The video of the attack still makes me sick,” she added.