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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 27, 2022

Woman Sentenced to 15 Months in Federal Custody for Interfering with Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant

SAN DIEGO – Vyvianna M. Quinonez of Sacramento was sentenced in federal court today to 15 months in federal custody for interfering with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. In addition, U.S. District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson ordered Quinonez to pay $25,981.57 in restitution and a $7,500 fine and imposed three years of supervised release. While on supervised release, Quinonez will be prohibited from flying on commercial aircraft and must participate in anger management classes or counseling, among other conditions.

Last year, Quinonez pleaded guilty to one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, admitting that she assaulted a flight attendant by punching her in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbing her hair.

According to admissions in her plea agreement, on May 23, 2021, Quinonez was a passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 700 from Sacramento International Airport to San Diego International Airport. During the flight’s final descent, Quinonez failed to comply with federal rules and regulations. She was not wearing her seat belt, pulled her tray table down, and was not wearing her facemask properly. Court documents state that Quinonez failed to comply when a flight attendant instructed her to fasten her seatbelt. A short time later, another flight attendant instructed Quinonez to fasten her seat belt and stow her tray table for her own safety and wear her mask correctly. Quinonez did not comply and talked back to the flight attendant while shouting profanities.

The plea agreement states Quinonez began filming the flight attendant on her cellphone and pushed the flight attendant. Quinonez admitted she stood up and intentionally assaulted the flight attendant. The assault was captured on video by another passenger sitting a few rows ahead of Quinonez. Several passengers attempted to stop Quinonez by grabbing at her clothing and arms. Court documents state that the passenger sitting directly in front of Quinonez told investigators that she believed she “softened the blows” by grabbing Quinonez’s arm. A male passenger sitting nearby jumped between Quinonez and the flight attendant, instructing Quinonez to sit down.

The flight attendant was taken to the hospital and sustained several injuries. Three of the flight attendant’s teeth were chipped, resulting in two teeth later being replaced by crowns. The flight attendant’s left eye was bruised and swollen; she sustained a cut under her left eye, requiring three stitches; and she had a bruise in the shape of fingers on her right forearm. Due to the assault, the flight attendant was not able to perform her normal safety and customer service duties.

In a letter filed with the court, the Vice President of Inflight Operations for Southwest Airlines stated that Quinonez “created a situation onboard Flight 700 that jeopardized the entire flight and created an unsafe environment.” She explained that Quinonez’s “actions negatively impacted our workgroup beyond description . . . causing fear to come permanently into the workplace.” The letter concluded, “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.”  

“Violence on aircraft endangers the lives of all onboard,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Attacks on flight crew members, who perform vital jobs to ensure passenger safety, will not be tolerated. We will pursue criminal charges against those who violate the law both at the airport and aboard aircraft while in flight.” Grossman commended the prosecution team, the agents and officers from FBI and San Diego Harbor Police, as well as the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration for their excellent work on this case.

“Today’s sentence should send a very strong message to air travelers - the FBI will vigorously pursue anyone who assaults or interferes with flight crews,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “I want to thank the Port of San Diego Harbor Police, the San Diego Airport Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, Southwest Airlines, and the United States Attorney’s Office for their collaboration and partnership in bringing this case to a resolution.”

If you believe you are a victim or a witness to a crime occurring aboard an aircraft, immediately report it to the FBI (https://www.fbi.gov/tips or call 1-800-CALL-FBI).

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 21-CR-2816-TWR                           

Vyvianna M. Quinonez                                  Age: 29                                   Sacramento, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants – Title 49, U.S.C., 46504

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Federal Bureau of Investigation

San Diego Harbor Police

Transportation Security Administration

Federal Aviation Administration

Contact: 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaclyn Stahl (619) 546-8456
Press Release Number: 
CAS22-0527-Quinonez
Updated May 27, 2022