Woman who punched Southwest flight attendant in face sentenced to 15 months in prison

SAN DIEGO — A passenger who attacked a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last year on a San Diego-bound plane was sentenced in federal court Friday to 15 months in prison.

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The assailant, 29-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez, read a letter to the judge apologizing to the victim and expressing remorse for her actions, KFMB-TV reported.

Prosecutors initially sought a sentence of four months in federal custody and six months of house arrest, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Quinonez, who pleaded guilty to interfering with the duties of a flight attendant, was captured on video punching the victim, knocking two of the flight attendant’s teeth out, and pulling her hair.

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U.S. District Judge Todd Robinson also ordered Quinonez to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine plus three years of supervised release, KFMB reported.

According to the TV station, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaclyn Stahl argued in court that Quinonez violently assaulted the flight attendant in a “fit of rage,” punching her with a closed fist in the face and head, after Quinonez was confronted for violating three federal rules and regulations during the flight’s descent: not wearing her face mask properly, unbuckling her seat belt and leaving her tray table down.

“(Quinonez) violated her pretrial release by getting a DUI, and that was a factor in determining the sentence,” Stahl said following the sentencing, adding, “This sentence is justice for the victims. That is not only the flight attendant victim, but Southwest airlines and all passengers aboard that day.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, investigations into unruly passenger behavior spiked in 2021 to slightly fewer than 1,100 incidents, compared with an annual average between 100 and 200 during the prior decade, the Times reported.

While on supervised release, Quinonez is banned from flying any commercial aircraft and must participate in anger management classes, KFMB reported.