A woman was charged in federal court on Wednesday accused of punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant so violently that she knocked out two of her teeth. Vyvianna Quinonez, 29, was charged with assault causing serious bodily injury and interfering with a flight crew member during her appearance at the U.S. District Court in San Diego.
Video footage of Quinonez lashing out at the flight attendant on the Sacramento to San Diego flight went viral following the incident on May 23. The flight attendant was left bloodied and bruised and required four stitches for a cut under her left eye and two crowns to replace her damaged teeth.
Quinonez isn’t due to make a plea until September 17. Her attorney indicated that she would plead not guilty. Shortly after being detained by law enforcement, Quinonez apparently told police officers that she had acted in self defence.
In a probable cause statement submitted to the court on Wednesday, it is alleged that Quinonez unfastened her seatbelt and lowered her tray table in the final moments before Southwest Airlines flight WN700 was coming into land at San Diego.
The flight attendant, identified only by the initials S.L., got up from her crew seat at the back of the plane and asked Quinonez to fasten her seat belt, secure her tray table and fix her face mask so that it was covering both her mouth and nose.
Quinonez allegedly refused to comply.
The flight attendant took her seat for landing but again approached Quinonez after touchdown to get her to comply with the safety rules. Quinonez allegedly pushed the flight attendant resulting in a rebuke from the crew member.
Quinonez stood up and started punching the flight attendant and grabbing her hair. Another passenger sat close by quickly intervened and prised Quinonez off the flight attendant.
The flight attendant sustained a bruised and swollen left eye, a cut under her left eye that required four stitches, bruises on her right arm and three chipped teeth, including two that were so badly damaged that they had to be replaced with crowns.
The assault took place just after landing in San Diego when the flight attendant was required to carry out essential safety duties including disarming the doors.
Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 branch which represents Southwest flight attendants decried the assault and urged the airline to take more action to protect crew members.
“We cannot tolerate our beloved cohearts (Southwest Airlines employees) being abused in such a manner, and because I am asking for your help and leadership in ending these travesties,” Montogomery wrote in a letter to Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly.
The assault prompted Southwest to delay the return of onboard alcohol sales over fears that disruptive and unruly behavior was being made worse by passengers drinking too much alcohol.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.