Juan Carlos Del Carmen Leyva, 41, admitted before a Los Angeles federal court judge that he fondled a clothed fellow passenger for about three minutes on board a Southwest Airlines flight on April 18.
He said he touched the woman “with the intent to arouse and gratify his sexual desire.”
As part of his plea deal, he faces no more than a year in prison at his sentencing on June 6.
According to an affidavit by the FBI, which investigated the incident, Leyva tried to engage the woman in conversation during the flight but she rebuffed him because “he had horrible breath.”
The victim, identified only by her initials, subsequently fell asleep only to awaken and find Leyva squeezing her right buttock, according to the statement.
When confronted by a flight attendant, Leyva apologized and pleaded for mercy saying he had a family.
At the time of the incident, he had been traveling in the United States for about a week visiting various places of worship.