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15 Months Jail For Punching A Southwest Flight Attendant

Date: May 30, 2022

15 Months Jail For Punching A Southwest Flight Attendant

An obnoxious passenger is cooling her heels in jail for 15 months after being sentenced for seriously assaulting a Southwest flight attendant.

By Andrew Curran, Simple Flying

Published 05/30/2022

A Southwest Airlines passenger is out of the air for 15 months after landing a custodial prison sentence for punching a flight attendant in the mouth and breaking her teeth. The 29-year-old female passenger received the hefty sentence on Friday after a Southwest Vice President took the time to write to the US District Court Judge to call out the behavior.

Bruising, stitches, and damaged teeth for Southwest flight attendant

According to the San Diego US District Attorney's office, Vyvianna Quinonez was onboard WN700 from Sacramento (SMF) to San Diego (SAN) on May 23, 2021. On the drop, the passenger attracted the attention of flight attendants by not wearing her seat belt, pulling down her tray table, and not wearing her face mask properly. The passenger was asked by two separate flight attendants to sort this, but she declined and after the second request, began swearing at a flight attendant.

The plea agreement states Ms Quinonez began filming the flight attendant on her cellphone and pushed the flight attendant. Ms Quinonez admitted she stood up and intentionally assaulted the flight attendant. Several passengers attempted to stop Ms Quinonez by grabbing at her clothing and arms, including male passenger sitting nearby who jumped between Ms Quinonez and the Southwest Airlines flight attendant and told her to sit down.

Southwest Vice President writes to sentencing judge

The female flight attendant was taken to hospital when the plane landed. She required three stitches for a cut under her left eye, crowns to replace two teeth, and suffered bruising. Vyvianna Quinonez was arrested when the plane landed but soon after bailed. In December 2021, Ms Quinonez pleaded guilty to one charge of interference with flight crew members and attendants and another charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury on an aircraft. The March 2022 sentencing date was delayed after Ms Quinonez was picked up for drunk driving.

"The primary role of a flight attendant is to both foster and ensure a safe environment," wrote Sonya Lacore, Southwest's Vice President of Flight Operations in a May 18 letter to US District Court Judge Todd Robinson. "But what happened on Flight 700 was absolutely horrific. In my 20 plus year career at Southwest, I have never seen such an inexcusable, violent assault of a flight attendant by a passenger.

"Given the widespread news coverage of this incident, Southwest hopes that the ultimate sentence imposed in this matter will serve as a deterrent for others who may contemplate engaging in similar dangerous behavior aboard our aircraft."

"This incident caught me completely off guard. It was absolutely terrifying," wrote another flight attendant on WN700 that day. "As flight attendants, we are trained to help keep all passengers safe – and never would I have imagined that a passenger would physically assault a crew member in such a vicious way. That is completely unacceptable and, with that, I hope that a sentence in this case sends a message that this type of despicable attack against a flight attendant will not be tolerated."

Apologies couldn't save passenger from jail

Vyvianna Quinonez apologized in court and her lawyers sought time served (she has been on remand since the DUI incident in March). Prosecutors wanted four months inside. But Judge Robinson thought both options insufficient. He slapped Ms Quinonez with 15 months of jail time, three years of supervised release, a US$7,500 fine, nearly $26,000 in restitution, compulsory anger management and counseling classes, and banned her from flying on commercial airlines in the US.

"The specific flight attendant that dealt with this incident did so with high class, poise, and professionalism," said Sonya Lacore, adding that while the flight attendant had recovered physically, she was still recovering emotionally. "I do not want to understate the impact these actions have had on our Flight Attendant workgroup as a whole, as well as our company."

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