Vyvianna M. Quinonez, a Sacramento resident, pleaded guilty in federal court today to interfering with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.
According to admissions in her plea agreement, on May 23, 2021, Quinonez boarded Southwest Airlines Flight 700 from Sacramento International Airport to San Diego International Airport. During the flight’s final descent, Quinonez was not wearing her facemask properly, unbuckled her seat belt, and pulled down her tray table—all in violation of federal rules and regulations.
A flight attendant approached Quinonez and requested that she fasten her seat belt, stow her tray table, and wear her facemask properly. The plea agreement states that Quinonez began filming the flight attendant on her cellphone, and that she pushed the flight attendant. Around this time, another passenger began filming the interaction on her cellphone.
Quinonez admitted that she stood up and assaulted the flight attendant by punching her in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbing her hair. Several other passengers attempted to stop Quinonez by grabbing at her clothing and arms. A male passenger sitting nearby jumped in between Quinonez and the flight attendant and instructed Quinonez to sit down.
The plea agreement states that, as a result of being assaulted by Quinonez, 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 duties, and the Captain delayed taxiing the airplane to the gate to wait for law enforcement officers to respond.
“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.”
Grossman thanked the prosecution team, the FBI, and the San Diego Harbor Police for their excellent work on this case and expressed appreciation to Southwest Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration for their assistance in this matter.
“The FBI is committed to keeping air travel safe from threats which come in a variety of forms,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “Assaulting and interfering with flight crews will not be tolerated and the FBI will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to diligently investigate and prosecute crimes such as these.”
The law enforcement and administrative agencies at the San Diego International Airport have a long-standing history of cooperation in the shared effort to keep travelers safe. To build on these relationships, Acting U.S. Attorney Grossman is working closely with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, FBI, San Diego Harbor Police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, TSA, Carlsbad Police Department, FAA, and the San Diego Regional Airport Authority to ensure the timely reporting and investigation of crimes occurring aboard aircraft and at the airport. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaclyn Stahl and agents with the FBI are developing training for the airport agency partners and the airlines to ensure the early identification of potential federal crimes, address the unique issues associated with investigating these crimes, and streamline the process for prosecuting these crimes—either at the state or federal level.
Quinonez is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Todd W. Robinson on March 11, 2022, at 9 a.m.