Californian pleads guilty to punching attendant on flight

California woman, 28, faces up to 20 years in jail after she admitted punching Southwest flight attendant who asked her to wear her mask properly

  • A California woman who punched a flight attendant in the face during a flight, breaking her teeth, and now could face up to 20 years in prison for the crime 
  • Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty to a federal charge Wednesday of interfering with a flight attendant 
  • She was on a May 23 flight from Sacramento to San Diego when an attendant asked her to buckle her seatbelt, stow her tray table and wear her mask properly 
  • Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone then stood up and punched the woman in the face, grabbed her hair before passengers intervened 
  • Quinonez will be sentenced in March in San Diego federal court
  • She could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
  • However, prosecutors said they probably will recommend a sentence of four months in custody and six months of home confinement

A California woman who punched a flight attendant in the face during a flight, chipping her teeth and bloodying her face, pleaded guilty to a federal charge Wednesday, and now could face up to 20 years in prison for the crime, authorities said.

Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, of Sacramento, entered a plea to interfering with a flight attendant face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine., the US attorney’s office said.

However, prosecutors said they probably will recommend a sentence of four months in custody and six months of home confinement, KGTV-TV reported. She will be sentenced in March in San Diego federal court.

Quinonez was on a May 23 Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego when a flight attendant, identified only as S.L, asked her to buckle her seatbelt, stow her tray table and wear her mask properly during the descent – all violations of federal rules and regulations.

The high-profile attack was among 5,779 incidents involving unruly passengers – with 4,156 of those for passengers refusing to wear masks – reported to the Federal Aviation Administration this year.  

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Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, from California, has been convicted with federal counts of felony assault and interfering with a flight crew for allegedly attacking a Southwest flight attendant

A viral video shows a passenger identified as Quinonez punching the crew member in the face with a closed fist and pulling her hair (pictured)

A male passenger jumped between the passenger and the flight attendant to stop the assault

FAA, TSA threaten to take away the precheck privilege for anyone who’s violent on flights 

On Tuesday, the FAA and Transportation Security Administration also announced that passengers facing fines for unruly behavior may have their TSA PreCheck privileges revoked.

‘TSA has zero tolerance for the unruly behaviors, especially those involving physical assault occurring aboard aircraft,’ TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement.

‘This partnership with FAA will help ensure the safety and security of all passengers and hold those who violate federal regulations accountable for their actions, he said.

If you act out of line, you will wait in line, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

Another 300 incidents have involved intoxicated passengers, according to the FAA. 

More than $1 million in fines have been doled out to unruly passenger behavior in 2021 alone. 

Quinonez’s admitted in her plea agreement that she was not wearing her face mask properly at the time of the incident.  

Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone, pushed her, then stood up and punched the woman in the face and grabbed her hair before other passengers intervened, authorities said. 

The assault was recorded on another passenger’s cellphone. 

The plea agreement says that the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of which needed crowns, along with bruises and a cut under her left eye that needed stitches.

‘The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,’ acting United States Attorney Randy Grossman said in the statement. 

‘It’s inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason.’

The incident marked an escalation in unruly behavior by airline passengers and led the president of the flight attendants’ union to ask for more federal air marshals on planes.

Quinonez will also be barred from flying on commercial airlines for three years, according to prosecutors.

On Tuesday, the FAA and Transportation Security Administration also announced that passengers facing fines for unruly behavior may have their TSA PreCheck privileges revoked. 

‘If you act out of line, you will wait in line,’ FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

Meanwhile, in September the TSA reinstated flight crew self-defense classes in response to the ongoing violence. 

The FAA reports that there were more acts of violence towards flight staff in 2021 than in the entire history of record keeping, which began back in 1995.

‘Since the FAA started keeping track of reports of incidents like this on board, we’ve had more events in 2021 than we’ve had in the entire history of that record keeping in aviation,’ Sara Nelson, president of the AFA and a flight attendant for two decades, told ABC News.  

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