Passenger caught punching flight attendant pleads guilty

Woman admitted to hitting cabin crew in the face and pulling her hair

Helen Coffey
Friday 24 December 2021 09:04 GMT
The incident occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight
The incident occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight (Getty Images)

A passenger who was caught on camera punching a flight attendant in the face has pleaded guilty to “interfering with a flight attendant”.

Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, was on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on 23 May when the violent altercation occurred.

As the plane approached its final descent, a member of cabin crew requested that Quinonez stow her tray table, put on her seatbelt and wear her mask correctly, according to a plea agreement, reports CNN.

The flight attendant then returned to her own seat.

However, she approached Quinonez again after the latter starting filming her using a smartphone.

Quinonez pushed the unnamed Southwest staff member and admitted to punching her in the face and head with a closed fist, as well as grabbing her by the hair, according to the plea agreement.

Footage of the incident taken by another traveller was shared on social media at the time and quickly went viral.

A male passenger intervened and told Quinonez to sit down, but the assaulted flight attendant was left with three chipped teeth and “a bruise in the shape of fingers on her right forearm”. Her face also needed stitches following the attack.

“The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,“ said Acting United States Attorney Randy Grossman.

”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.

“We are not going to tolerate violence or interference with the flight crew, and we will pursue criminal charges against those who break the law.“

It is one of numerous violent passenger incidents recorded in the last 12 months – the US has seen a huge uptick in instances of unruly behaviour on flights since a mask mandate was introduced on transport earlier this year.

In an article in its Airlines magazine, the International Air Transport Association reported that the rate of unruly passenger incidents had doubled in 2020 compared to previous years, and confirmed that the trend continued into 2021.

Meanwhile, the US’s Federal Airline Administration (FAA) reported 4,600 incidents between January and early October 2021 – 72 per cent of which related to non-compliance with the country’s federal mandate to wear a mask on all planes and in airports.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in