(Video Credit: CBS 8 San Diego)
A Sacramento woman named Vyvianna Quinonez, 29, has just been sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty following a brutal attack against a Southwest flight attendant last year, punching her in the face, and knocking out two of her teeth after she was asked to put a face mask on.
Quinonez was also ordered by a federal judge on Tuesday to pay $33,000 in restitution and fines. She was banned by the judge from flying for three years after she gets out of prison and is required to attend anger management classes.
“In a fit of rage, Quinonez violently assaulted a flight attendant, punched her with a closed fist in the face and head. This behavior was reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” declared Assistant United States Attorney, Jaclyn Stahl.
“She violated her pretrial release by getting a DUI, and that was a factor in determining the sentence,” she noted.
“This sentence is justice for the victims. That is not only the flight attendant victim, but Southwest airlines and all passengers aboard that day,” Stahl asserted.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy claimed 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 woman boarded the Southwest flight on May 23, 2021, and was asked to buckle her seat belt, stow her tray table, and properly put on her facemask by the flight attendant as the plane approached San Diego, California according to the New York Post.
The request incensed Quinonez who began recording the attendant on her phone and shouting profanities. Things escalated from there and she wound up pushing and punching the flight attendant while grabbing her hair. Another passenger caught the whole incident on their phone while the woman got into an argument with multiple Southwest employees during the altercation.
In the brief but violent exchange, the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of them requiring crowns. She also wound up getting stitches for a cut under her eye according to Quinonez’s plea deal. Video shows several passengers grabbing at Quinonez, eventually helping break up the fight.
(Video Credit: CBS Sacramento)
“Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital jobs to ensure passenger safety, will not be tolerated,” U.S, Attorney Randy Grossman declared in a statement.
In a letter submitted to the U.S. District Court that sentenced Quinonez, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said she “created a situation onboard Flight 700 that jeopardized the entire flight and created an unsafe environment,” according to Fox 5 San Diego.
She also stated that Quinonez’s “actions negatively impacted our workgroup beyond description … causing fear to come permanently into the workplace.”
Violent incidents on planes skyrocketed during the pandemic with thousands of passengers refusing to comply with COVID mandates.
There were 5,981 reported incidents in 2021 according to the FAA. Of those, 4,290 were mask-related.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced in April that its “zero-tolerance policy” for dealing with unruly passengers will become permanent.
“Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement.
“Unsafe behavior simply does not fly and keeping our Zero Tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behavior,” he added.
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