Airlines ban alcohol after flight attendant repeatedly punched by passenger

Southwest and American Airlines have responded to assault

Helen Coffey
Tuesday 01 June 2021 10:47

Two airlines in the US have pledged to ban the sale of alcohol on flights after a member of cabin crew was repeatedly punched in the face by a passenger.

Southwest and American Airlines have both announced that alcoholic drinks will no longer be offered onboard in response to a spate of recent incidents involving unruly travellers.

The most shocking assault took place on a Southwest service from Sacramento to San Diego, California, on 23 May, when a female passenger ignored crew instructions before hitting a flight attendant several times.

The attendant’s union later confirmed she had lost two teeth in the attack.

Police arrested the perpetrator, 28-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez, and charged her with felony battery.

Southwest confirmed she is banned from future flights with the airline.

Sonya Lacore, Southwest’s vice president of in-flight operations, said that: “the passenger involved in the most recent incident has been advised that she may no longer fly on Southwest Airlines.”

“The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing,” a Southwest spokesperson told USA Today at the time.

“Law enforcement officials were requested to meet the flight upon arrival, and the passenger was taken into custody.

“We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our flight crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers.”

Further details of the unnamed crew member’s injuries were shared by a flight attendants’ union, which penned a letter to the airline’s CEO following the attack.

“This past weekend, one of our flight attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth,” wrote Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556.

She shared that 477 passenger misconduct incidents had been reported between 8 April and 15 May on Southwest flights.

“This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,” she added.

Around 1,300 passengers have been reported to the US aviation regulator since February 2021, in a spike in disruptive behaviour since the start of the year.

A typical year would see between 100 and 150 incidents.

The figures from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) came amid an extension of its “zero tolerance” policy towards unruly passengers, which will likely remain in place until 13 September.

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