Vyvianna Quinonez is a California woman who is accused of assaulting a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, knocking out two of her teeth, on a plane headed from Sacramento to San Diego. The 28-year-old Quinonez was charged with felony battery and released on bail after being arrested when the flight landed, court record show.
Videos of the Sunday, May 23, 2021, incident went viral, but one fellow passenger who recorded the incident said Quinonez was acting in self-defense, Fox 40 reports.
The flight attendant, who has not been identified, is recovering from her injuries, the Southwest Airlines flight attendants union told CBS News. The union and the Federal Aviation Administration have both recently highlighted a trend of attacks on flight attendants and airport workers as travel begins to return to normal amid loosening of COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions.
“This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,” Lyn Montgomery, a spokesperson from the union, told CBS News.
The FAA said in a tweet, “We have zero tolerance for unruly or dangerous behavior on an airplane. The consequences are serious: up to $35K in fines or imprisonment.” It is not clear if Quinonez could be facing federal charges or a fine from the FAA in addition to the charges filed in San Diego County court against her.
Here’s what you need to know about Vyvianna Quinonez:
1. Videos Show Quinonez Punching the Southwest Flight Attendant, Leaving Her With a Bloody Mouth & Face & Then Being Led Off the Airplane by Police
Videos recorded by other passengers that were posted on social media show Quinonez punching the flight attendant multiple times. The attack left the flight attendant with a bloody mouth and face. Quinonez was led off of the plane by police after the incident.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement to CBS News, “Our reports indicate that a passenger physically assaulted a flight attendant upon landing on Flight #700 from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday morning. The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight 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.”
Susan Marie Stidham, who was a passenger on the flight, wrote on Facebook, the attack occurred, “simply because she was asked to put her seatbelt back on. I asked about the injured flight attendant on my return flight, and she reportedly has a broken nose, injured face, and broken teeth. Someone can identify the perp even though she is wearing a mask. Hoping that they will give her jail time and put her on the No Fly list.”
Stidham added, “While the flight attendant was staggering back with a bloody face, we were all told to stay in our seats while they brought in police to remove the unruly passenger.”
Another passenger, Taro Arai, wrote on Twitter, “Can we go any further in the US? Just witnessed a woman punch a flight attendant. 5 hr delay so far.”
2. Another Passenger Says She Heard Quinonez Say ‘Get Off Me’ Multiple Times Before Punching the Flight Attendant
Another passenger posted a video of the incident and told Fox 40 the flight attendant provoked the fight. Michelle Manner told the news station, “Vyvianna had said to her three times, that we could hear, ‘Get off of me. Quit touching me. Get your hands off of me.'” Manner did not know Quinonez. She said she heard the flight attendant “rudely” tell Quinonez and her travel companions to put their masks back on because they were below their noses.
“It was so unnecessary. In the first altercation, she had said that she was going to call the captain. And she should’ve just stayed there in her back cubby,” Manner told Fox 40. “But she came back out screaming at them again. The flight attendant continued to yell. And I mean she was yelling. We got to the point to, where we’re like, should we start videoing this? She was very unprofessional. Very rude, about the way she handled anything.”
Stidham disputed the other passenger’s account. She wrote on Facebook, “But the FA did NOT ‘have it coming.’ The FA told her to put her seatbelt on and stay seated. Like it or not, those are the rules and she is in charge. What kind of person thinks that ‘the FA had it coming’ simply because she was doing her job?”
She added, “All I know, is that whether you like the rules or not, you have to follow instructions of the flight crew. That means keeping your seat belt on and staying in your seat, and it certainly means not attacking the flight crew. … deescalation is always the best policy, but authority figures like the flight crew are not obligated to ignore the federal flight regulations in order to placate an otherwise non compliant passenger.”
3. Quinonez Was Released on $35,000 Bail After Her Arrest
Quinonez was arrested by local police after the plane landed at the San Diego airport. She was booked into the Las Colinas Detention Facility, San Diego Harbor Police told KUSI. She was charged with suspicion of felony battery causing serious bodily injury. She was later released after posting $35,000 bail.
Quinonez is scheduled to appear in San Diego County court on September 30, CBS 8 reports.
According to California state law, battery causing serious bodily injury, also known as aggravated battery, is a felony that carries a potential sentence of up to 4 years in prison. Quinonez could also face federal charges as a result of the incident.
4. Quinonez Is From Antelope, California
Quinonez Is From Antelope, California, according to public records. She has studied at Sierra College and California State University-Sacramento, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has worked as a server at a Sacramento restaurant.
Quinonez could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it was not immediately clear if she has hired an attorney who could speak on her behalf. Her mother told the New York Post her daughter was not ready to speak about the incident.
Quinonez does not appear to have a prior criminal record.
5. The Southwest Airlines Union Called the Incident Part of an ‘Epimdeic of Aggression & Assault’
Montgomery, the spokesperson for the Southwest Airlines flight attendants’ union, told CBS News, “We are asking our carrier, the government and the flying public’s help in ending this epidemic of aggression and assault. Flight attendants are first responders in the sky who are focused on safety. As people return to the skies, we are asking for everyone’s help in complying with flight attendant requests to help ensure a safe and fun atmosphere for all.”
The incident comes after the FAA released a statement about fines in multiple cases involving aggression toward flight crews.
In a May 24 press release, the FAA said, “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed civil penalties ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 against five airline passengers for allegedly interfering with and, in two cases, assaulting flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations.”
The FAA added, “The enforcement actions announced today are part of the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy for unruly and dangerous behavior by passengers. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received approximately 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate.”