A shocking viral video from Sunday shows a woman punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, who lost two teeth and suffered other facial injuries. The 28-year-old woman was arrested and charged with felony battery for striking the attendant who asked her to remain seated with her seatbelt fastened after the plane landed at San Diego International Airport. The airline's flight attendant union said this is part of a growing trend of violence against carrier employees.
The incident happened after a flight from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday morning, reports the Associated Press. On Tuesday, San Diego Harbor police arrested Vyvianna Quinonez, who was charged with battery causing serious bodily injury. The flight attendant was not identified. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment and has since been released. "The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing," Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz told the AP.
Video obtained by CBS News shows the moment a Southwest Airlines flight attendant was punched by a passenger after asking her to keep her seat belt fastened during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday. https://t.co/gQusevodYC pic.twitter.com/oOYvPdwCFj— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 27, 2021
Michelle Manner, a San Diego resident on the flight, told Fox40 Quinonez was defending herself. Manner said there was an altercation before the one caught on tape that would show the flight attendant "rudely" asked Quinonez and her other family members to pull their masks up. "It was so unnecessary. In the first altercation, she had said that she was going to call the captain. And she should've just stayed there in her back cubby," Manner claimed. "But she came back out screaming at them again." Quinonez has not spoken out herself, but her mother said her daughter was defending herself.
TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery also sent a letter to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, pointing out that the incident is just one of many recent ones involving a flight attendant being "seriously assaulted" by a passenger. "This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature," Montgomery wrote, reports CBS News. "We are asking our carrier, the government, and the flying public's help in ending this epidemic of aggression and assault. Flight attendants are first responders in the sky who are focused on safety," Montgomery wrote in a separate statement to CBS News. "As people return to the skies, we are asking for everyone's help in complying with flight attendant requests to help ensure a safe and fun atmosphere for all."
The incident happened just a day before the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of proposed fines to passengers who allegedly interfered with flight crews' duties. In two of the cases, passengers assaulted flight attendants who asked the passengers to follow cabin instructions. Since Jan. 1, the FAA has seen over 2,500 reports of unruly behavior, including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to follow the federal mask mandate on flights.
The largest fines proposed are two $15,000 fines. The first was for a JetBlue passenger who assaulted a flight attendant who noticed the passenger was receiving a champagne glass and food from the first-class section from another passenger. The main-cabin passenger "yelled obscenities at the flight attendant and followed him to the first-class section, then assaulted the flight attendant by hitting him with her body and almost pushing him into the lavatory," according to the FAA. The flight was diverted to Austin, Texas before reaching its Los Angeles destination. The second $15,000 fine was proposedfor a JetBlue passenger who yelled at a flight attendant who asked him not to drink his own alcohol or use his cell phone throughout the flight.