SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California woman who punched a flight attendant in the face during a flight, breaking her teeth, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge, authorities said.
Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, of Sacramento, entered a plea to interfering with a flight attendant, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Quinonez was on a May 23 Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego when a flight attendant asked her to buckle her seatbelt, stow her tray table and wear her mask properly during the descent.
Instead, Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cellphone, pushed her, then stood up and punched the woman in the face and grabbed her hair before other passengers intervened, authorities said.
The assault was recorded on another passenger's cellphone.
The plea agreement says that the flight attendant suffered three chipped teeth, two of which needed crowns, along with bruises and a cut under her left eye that needed stitches.
"The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane," acting United States Attorney Randy Grossman said in the statement. "It's inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason."
The incident marked an escalation in unruly behavior by airline passengers and led the president of the flight attendants' union to ask for more federal air marshals on planes.
Quinonez will be sentenced in March in San Diego federal court. She could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, prosecutors said they probably will recommend a sentence of four months in custody and six months of home confinement, KGTV-TV reported.
Airlines reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration this year.
Most of the incidents have involved passengers refusing to follow the federal requirement for passengers to wear face masks while on planes, but nearly 300 have involved intoxicated passengers, according to the FAA.