A Perth man returning from a holiday in Chile made a serious mistake at Auckland Airport while changing flights for the final leg of his trip.
He decided to duck into the airport toilets and drink a bottle of vodka.
While the flight was taxiing onto the runway, Gunasekera pushed his arm through the gap between the seats in front of him and grabbed the breast of a female passenger while using obscene language, the court was told.
When the man next to him told him to stop, Gunasekera screamed at him and made a threat.
He was arrested and removed from the plane.
Gunasekera pleaded guilty to assault and threatening to injure, the New Zealand Herald reported. Charges were downgraded from the original much more serious counts of indecent assault and threatening to kill.
Gunasekera’s lawyer John Munro said his client could not remember anything of the incident, and was feeling “really, really embarrassed” about it.
Since the incident, Gunasekera had accepted he was an alcoholic and had attended a residential rehabilitation program over several weeks at his own expense, the court heard.
Gunasekera had not drunk alcohol since the incident and was now taking medication which made him violently ill if he consumed any alcohol, his lawyer said. The lawyer added that Gunasekera had returned three times to New Zealand at great expense to attend court hearings and had offered to pay reparation for emotional harm to the victims.
The judge ordered payment of NZD 500 to the man who had been threatened and NZD 1000 to the woman who had been groped, Fairfax New Zealand reported.
Passengers should be able to fly “without being groped and without being verbally threatened”, the judge declared, fining Gunasekera an additional NZD 1000.
Written by Peter Needham