By Neal Putnam
An airplane passenger who is charged with slugging a female flight attendant in May as the plane was about to land in San Diego pleaded not guilty Friday, Sept. 17 to two counts of felony assault in a dispute over wearing a mask.
Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 28, of Antelope, Ca., appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin, who allowed her to remain free on $20,000 bond.
As a condition of bond, Dembin ordered Quinonez “not to board a commercial flight during the pendency of this case,” according to a court document. She will return to court on Sept. 28 and she has waived having a preliminary hearing.
The incident took place May 23 on Southwest Airline flight 700 from Sacramento when a flight attendant told Quinonez to put her face mask over her nose, fasten her seat belt and stow her tray table as they were about to land in San Diego.
Another passenger videotaped Quinonez that showed her punching the victim twice and pulling her hair, leaving her face bloody. The flight attendant was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital where she received four stitches to her face and two dental crowns for damaged teeth.
The video shows a tall male passenger who stood up and got between the two women. “Stand down! Don’t you dare touch her!” said the man to Quinonez.
The 44-second video of the incident has been posted online by media websites and other groups.
After the plane landed at the San Diego International Airport, Harbor Police officers took Quinonez into custody.
Quinonez struck the flight attendant, who was identified only as S.L., with a closed fist, according to a probable cause statement written by a federal agent.
Three of the flight attendant’s teeth were chipped and two had to be replaced by crowns, according to court records. She had a cut under her left eye requiring four stitches and “a bruise in the shape of fingers on her right forearm,” the statement said.
The assault was described as interfering with a flight attendant’s ability to perform her duties. Southwest Airlines announced they would ban Quinonez permanently from flying on the airline.
“We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our flight crews, and we will continue to work with both the FAA and the Union to preserve and protect the safety and well being of our flight crews and customers,” said a statement by the airline afterwards.
— Neal Putnam is a local court reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.