Vyvianna Quinonez pleads guilty to beating Southwest flight attendant during flight after asked to correctly wear her face mask.
Prosecutors said the flight attendant had asked Quinonez — who wasn’t wearing her face mask properly — to put it on correctly, to fasten her seatbelt and put up her tray table as the plane proceeded to make its descent into San Diego.
Quinonez instead attacked the flight attendant, first pushing the woman before unleashing several vicious punches as shocked passengers looked on. The in-flight attack was filmed by another flier.
The flight attendant, identified only as S.L. in court documents, was injured during the assault — with bruises to her left eye and a facial cut that required three stitches. Three of her teeth were also chipped, leading to two of them being replaced with crowns, federal prosecutors said.
Faces potential 20 years jail
‘The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,’ Acting US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement Wednesday. ‘It’s inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason, particularly toward a flight attendant who is there to keep all the passengers safe.’
‘The passenger repeatedly ignored standard in-flight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing,’ Southwest Airlines spokesperson Chris Mainz said in a statement back in May.
Quinonez, who pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight attendant, is set to be sentenced on March 11. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors will likely recommend a sentence of four months behind bars and six months of home confinement, KGTV reported.
A sentencing hearing for Quinonez is scheduled before U.S. District Judge Todd W. Robinson on March 11, 2022, at 9:00 a.m.
Misbehaving passengers amid the ongoing coronavirus
Quinonez has also been banned from flying again on Southwest Airlines. She previously claimed she acted in self-defense and another passenger accused the flight attendant of provoking the high-profile in-flight incident.
The incident follows a recent June, 2021 report via the Federal Aviation Administration which documented over 5,240 instances of misbehaving passengers. The majority of the complaints (3800) stem from people refusing to wear face coverings according to the FAA.
Passengers can be fined up to $37,000 per infraction — an increase from the previous cap of $25,000 — and one incident can lead to multiple fines, the agency said.
Southwest Airlines did not comment on the case late Wednesday, the New York Times reported.