Southwest passenger faces felony charges for alleged assault

▶ Watch Video: Flight crews learn self defense amid rise in unruly passengers

A woman whose violent altercation with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant went viral in May has been charged with two felonies, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. Vyvianna Quinonez, who is accused of knocking out some of the flight attendant’s teeth, was charged with assault resulting in serious bodily injury and interfering with flight crew members.

Three of the flight attendant’s teeth were chipped — two damaged so badly they needed crowns — and a cut under her left eye needed four stitches, the criminal complaint states. She also had a bruised left eye and bruises in the shape of a hand on her forearm and three chipped teeth.

The criminal complaint alleges that during the final descent of the Sacramento to San Diego flight, Quinonez unbuckled her seat belt and pulled her tray table down, which is in violation of federal regulations. The flight attendant also asked Quinonez to wear her face mask properly. When the attendant returned to her jump seat, Quinonez started to film her with her cell phone, the complaint said. When Quinonez was approached and questioned, she allegedly pushed the flight attendant and then punched her and pulled her hair, the complaint states.

Video of the May incident shows a passenger jumping in to stop the 28-year-old. “Sit down!” he yelled, blocking Quinonez from the bleeding flight attendant. “Don’t you dare touch a flight attendant like that.”

Wednesday’s charges come after the Federal Aviation Administration announced earlier this week it has received nearly 4,100 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of the year, and almost 3,000 reports of passengers refusing to wear masks. The Transportation Security Administration has extended the federal mask mandate onboard to 2022.

The incident is part of a sharp uptick in disruptive passengers on airplanes. So far, the FAA is investigating 727 incidents, and has requested civil penalties in 143 cases, according to data provided by the agency. The FAA has requested a record $1 million in fines against passengers this year, including a more than $52,000 fine against one traveler. Passengers may appeal the civil fines requested by the FAA, and local law enforcement can bring criminal charges.

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