Federal charges filed against passenger who punched flight attendant on San Diego flight
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Federal charges were filed Wednesday against a woman who allegedly struck a flight attendant during a flight to San Diego.
Vyvianna Quinonez, who was arrested May 23 at the culmination of the flight from Sacramento to San Diego International Airport, faces felony charges of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and interference with flight crew members and attendants, according to court documents.
An initial court appearance is set for Sept. 17 in San Diego.
An affidavit filed in San Diego federal court states that a female Southwest Airlines flight attendant identified only as S.L. asked Quinonez to fasten her seat belt, stow her tray table and wear her face mask properly during the plane’s descent.
The Sacramento-area resident allegedly did not comply with the requests, and pushed the flight attendant. According to the affidavit, Quinonez later stood up in her seat, punched S.L. in the face and head with a closed first and grabbed the flight attendant by her hair.
Several passengers tried to grab Quinonez and pull her away and one passenger stood between the two women and told Quinonez to sit down, according to the filing.
The victim sustained injuries that included three chipped teeth — two of which sustained serious enough damage that they were replaced with crowns — a bruised left eye and a cut under her eye requiring four stitches, and bruising on her arm, according to the affidavit.
After she was taken into custody by San Diego Harbor Police at the airport, Quinonez told law enforcement that she acted in self-defense, the affidavit states.
Another passenger on the flight, Michelle Manner, alleged in interviews with various news outlets in May that the flight attendant provoked the incident, and that Quinonez could be heard multiple times saying “Get off me. Quit touching me. Get your hands off of me,” prior to the physical altercation.
Manner also alleged that the flight attendant was screaming at Quinonez and her companions to put on their face masks, which may have fallen beneath their noses.
The run-in was highlighted by the president of the Southwest flight attendants union in an open letter to airline CEO Gary Kelly, which stated that “passenger non-compliance events” are becoming increasingly common and “more aggressive in nature.”
A Southwest Airlines representative said in May that the passenger “repeatedly ignored standard in-flight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing. Law enforcement officials were requested to meet the flight upon arrival, and the passenger was taken into custody. We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our flight crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers.”
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration said its fines against “unruly passengers” who ignored flight crew instructions and/or threatened or assaulted members of the flight crew exceeded $1 million in 2021. The agency also said that nearly 4,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers have been received since the beginning of the year.