A woman accused of punching a flight attendant after refusing to fasten her seat belt and stow her tray table has been charged in a federal court with assault.
Vyvianna Quinonez of Antelope, near Sacramento, California was charged with two felonies, namely, one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and another of interfering with a flight crew.
Court documents show that the charges related to an incident on Southwest Airlines Flight 700 from Sacramento International Airport to San Diego International Airport, on 23 May.
The charging document details the moments leading up to an alleged violent assault on a flight attendant, named as S.L.
She allegedly refused to fasten her seatbelt and stow away her tray table, and despite the airline saying it wasn't anything to do with her Covid mask, witnesses say it was a part of the argument, too.
"Quinonez began filming S.L. on her cellphone," the court filing reads.
"S.L. again approached Quinonez, and Quinonez pushed S.L. S.L. said, 'You do not push a flight attendant,' or words to that effect.
"Around that time, another passenger on the airplane began filming the interaction on her cellphone. Quinonez stood up and knowingly assaulted S.L. by intentionally punching S.L. in the face and head with a closed fist and grabbing S.L.’s hair."
Chris Mainz, a Southwest Airlines spokesman, said in May that the altercation was "not mask-related".
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However, the federal charging document says that the attendant "instructed Quinonez to wear her facemask properly".
Video footage shot of the altercation shows the accused wearing her mask below her nose. Masks are federally required on airplanes in the US, because of the pandemic.
The incident took place soon after the plane had landed in San Diego. Police officers escorted Quinonez off the plane and she, according to court documents, told them she was acting in self-defence.
Video footage shot by a fellow passenger shows the defendant swinging wildly at the attendant, before another passenger steps in. The attendant can then be seen with blood pouring from her face.
The victim needed four stitches under her left eye, had bruising on her arm and had three teeth chipped, two of which has to be replaced by crowns, court filings show.
Michelle Manner, the witness who shot the video, called the incident "a very shaking experience" and disputed the airline's claims that it wasn't mask-related.
Quinonez could face up to 20 years in prison, the maximum penalty for interfering with a flight attendant. Her initial court appearance is slated for September 17.
Southwest's spokesman added that Quinonez is permanently banned from the airline.
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