SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California woman who slapped a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in the face during a flight and broke her teeth has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Vyvianna Quinonez was ordered Tuesday by a federal judge in San Diego to pay nearly $26,000 in damages and a $7,500 fine for the attack on a May 23, 2021 Southwest flight between Sacramento and San Diego.
The 29-year-old Sacramento woman will be banned from flying for three years during her supervised release and must attend anger management classes or counseling.
Quinonez pleaded guilty to assaulting flight crew members and flight attendants last year, admitting she punched the flight attendant in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbed her hair. Neither she nor her attorney could be reached for comment Tuesday.
During the plane’s final descent, the flight attendant had asked Quinonez to buckle up, stow her tray table, and don her face mask properly.
Instead, Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cell phone, poked her, then got up and slapped the woman in the face and grabbed her hair before other passengers intervened, authorities said.
The attack was recorded on another passenger’s mobile phone.
The settlement said the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of which required crowns, along with bruising and a cut under her left eye that required stitches.
“Attacks on flight crew members performing vital duties to ensure passenger safety will not be tolerated,” US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement after the sentencing.
Acting FBI Special Agent Stacey Moy said the ruling was intended to “send a very strong message to air travelers – the FBI will vigorously pursue anyone who assaults or disrupts flight crews.”
The incident was part of an escalation in unruly behavior by airline passengers amid the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the flight attendants’ union president to call for more federal flight attendants on planes.
In 2021, airlines reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Most were passengers who refused to comply with the state requirement for passengers to wear face masks on planes, but nearly 300 were intoxicated passengers, the FAA said.
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