Another Unruly Passenger Attacks Flight Attendants as Union Pleads 'Make It Stop'

29 Dec, 2021 Liz Carey


Atlanta, GA ( – A woman was taking into custody Thursday after attacking passengers and flight attendants during a flight from Tampa to Atlanta. 

Atlanta Police Department officials said an “unruly passenger” was arrested in Atlanta after a fight broke out between two unmasked passengers on Delta Air Lines flight #2790. A video of the incident posted on the ATL Uncensored Twitter feed shows woman confronting an older man who calls her “Karen.” Tensions escalate to the point the woman appears to hit the man who is sitting in his seat, then later to spit on him and scratch his face. 

In the video, as flight attendants try to defuse the situation, the woman yells at the man to put his mask on, even though she is not wearing a mask herself. 

According to the APD, the incident happened while the plane was in fight, and that passengers and Delta employees were injured during the disturbance. 

Upon arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, officers met the flight at the gate, and arrested the woman based on testimony from employees and passengers. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation also responded to the incident, and took over after the woman was in custody. The woman was identified as Patricia Cornwall. 

The attack was the latest in a mass of attacks against airline personnel throughout the year. Since Dec. 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received more than 5,770 reports of unruly passengers, a record. More than 4,000 of those incidents were related to masks. 

On Dec. 15, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee that flight attendants have reported violent assaults  - including being punched in the face, kicked, slammed against doors and counters, and even being spit on by passengers – have had lasting impacts on their physical, mental and emotional health. 

Nelson said it was important that unruly passengers who attack flight attendants and other airline employees should be prosecuted. 

“The cause of these attacks vary but one common thread exists between these cases - the lack of enforcement by local, state and federal departments creates opportunity for attacks to continue and to increase in severity,” Nelson said in her written testimony. “When incidents occur at the gates, local law officers are slow to respond, fail to properly document the incident by taking statements from witnesses and often do not detain the offending passenger. Further, even where arrests are made, local prosecutors rarely file serious charges in these cases.” 

The impact of the continued attacks are having a toll on airline personnel, she said. 

“Union representatives report the highest number of calls to employee assistance programs searching for ways to cope with fatigue, stress and fear caused by these incidents,” she said. 

However, a California woman year is facing up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine after assaulting a flight attendant earlier this year. 

Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, pleaded guilty to interfering with flight crew members and attendants Wednesday for her attack of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in May. 

Quinonez was on a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego, officials said, but was not wearing her mask properly. Additionally, she had unbuckled her seat belt and pulled down her tray table during the plane’s final descent, all violations of FAA regulations. When Quinonez was asked by a flight attendant to comply with the regulations, she pushed the flight attendant. 

As the incident continued, Quinonez was filmed punching the flight attendant in the face and pulling her hair. Video of the incident shows a male passenger putting himself between the two women and reprimanding Quinonez while the crew member appears to bleed from her left eye behind him. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the flight attendant required three stitches, as well as treatment for a bruised and swollen eye. The assault also chipped three of the flight attendant’s teeth, two of which had to be replaced. 

“The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,” said Randy Grossman, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. “It’s inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason, particularly toward a flight attendant who is there to keep all the passengers safe. We are not going to tolerate violence or interference with the flight crew, and we will pursue criminal charges against those who break the law.” 

Following the May 23 incident, Lyn Montgomery, the president of a union representing Southwest flight attendants, asked Southwest CEO Gary Kelly in a letter to take steps to protect flight crew and other airline employees. 

“We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us, period, full stop,” she wrote, in part. “Flight Crews must feel safe and supported when reporting to work.” 

Quinonez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11, 2022.



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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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