A woman who repeatedly punched a flight attendant on a San Diego-bound plane was sentenced Friday to 15 months in federal custody.
Vyvianna Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty last year to a federal count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants for striking a Southwest Airlines flight attendant on a May 23, 2021, flight from Sacramento to San Diego.
The victim suffered injuries that included three chipped teeth — two of which sustained serious enough damage that they were replaced with crowns — a bruised left eye, a cut under her eye requiring stitches and bruising on her arm, according to court documents.
Along with custody, Quinonez was ordered to attend anger management classes or counseling, and is prohibited from flying on commercial aircraft during a three-year period of supervised release.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that during the plane’s descent into San Diego International Airport, the flight attendant identified only as S.L. in court documents asked Quinonez to wear her face mask properly, fasten her seat belt and stow her tray table.
In her plea agreement, Quinonez admitted to pushing the flight attendant, punching S.L. in the face and head and grabbing her by the hair, prompting other passengers to intervene. She was arrested by San Diego Harbor Police at the airport.
One of the other passengers told police that Quinonez claimed she acted in self-defense, according to the prosecution’s sentencing memo.
At Quinonez’s sentencing hearing, S.L. made a statement to the court, in which she said that on the day of the flight, “Little did I know I would walk into a situation beyond my control simply for doing my job.”
Quinonez was originally released on bond following her guilty plea, but was arrested nine days later for allegedly driving under the influence and was remanded to custody.
She has since spent nearly four months behind bars, and in a statement made during her sentencing hearing, Quinonez said she is “completely remorseful” for what happened and “I hope and pray that (S.L.) forgives me.”
Quinonez said that she’s missed many major family obligations due to her incarceration, which has led her to realize how things could have been different, “If I didn’t make that mistake that day, if I didn’t act out of anger.”
In a letter filed with the court, Southwest’s vice president of Inflight Operations wrote that the incident has “negatively impacted our workgroup beyond description …causing fear to come permanently into the workplace.” The letter also stated, “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.”
City News Service contributed to this article.