A video from a recent Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego captured a passenger attacking a flight attendant, leaving the attendant’s face bloodied and causing her to lose two teeth. The video shows the passenger, 28-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez, punching the attendant in the face and grabbing her hair before another passenger steps between the two to break up the fight. Upon landing, Quinonez was arrested for battery, per a statement from the Port of San Diego Harbor Police.
It’s unclear what exactly incited the incident. Chris Mainz, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson, told the Sacramento Bee that Quinonez “repeatedly ignored standard in-flight instructions” and “became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.” Mainz said the alleged attack was “not mask-related.” However, the passenger who recorded the incident said the physical altercation occurred after the attendant told Quinonez to put her mask back on. In the video, Quinonez is wearing a mask but it isn’t covering her nose, per CDC guidelines.
The passenger who recorded the fight said the physical altercation was the result of a “two-sided” argument that lasted throughout the course of the flight. She claimed the attendant “was nothing but provocative, leaning over [Quinonez] on the aisle seat” during the flight, adding that the attendant was “very rude and unprofessional the whole flight.” However, she said the attendant’s behavior didn’t excuse the attack.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Southwest spokesperson Mainz condemned the incident saying, “We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our flight crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers.” Quinonez has now been permanently banned from Southwest airlines, according to USA Today.
Incidents of passengers attacking flight attendants have escalated as flight crews have been tasked with enforcing on-flight mask mandates. “This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger noncompliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,” Lyn Montgomery, the union president for Southwest flight attendants, wrote in a recent letter to the Southwest chief executive.
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration said it is currently reviewing 1,300 incidents of “unruly behavior” that have been reported since February. This is the same number of cases the agency has initiated in the entire previous decade. The agency also noted that since January 1, there have been roughly 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with mask regulations.
Quinonez now faces felony battery charges. According to a local CBS affiliate, she was released after paying a $35,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on September 30.