After failing to get a business-class upgrade on a flight from Philadelphia to West Palm Beach Wednesday, a French man tried to get a cockpit seat by impersonating a pilot, Philadelphia police said Friday.
He was arrested and faces several charges including criminal trespass and record tampering, and is expected also to face federal charges.
Philippe Jernnard, 60, of La Rochelle, France, had a ticket for the US Airways flight taking off before 7 p.m. Wednesday. Clad in a white button-down shirt with an Air France logo on the breast and a black jacket with gold-striped epaulets on each shoulder, he asked the woman at the gate to be upgraded to business class but was denied because there was no space, said police spokeswoman Officer Christina O’Brien.
“He became irate and told her he hated Americans,” O’Brien said.
The two continued to argue, but he eventually boarded the plane. When the same crew woman boarded the flight, preparing for takeoff, she went to deliver the passenger count to the captain and found Jernnard in the “jump seat” behind the pilot, reserved for traveling airline personnel.
But when the plane’s co-pilot asked, Jernnard couldn’t produce the paperwork to back up his claim that he was a 747 pilot and the police were called, O’Brien said.
Jernnard was found with a counterfeit Air France ID card. In a statement, Air France said the man is not one of its employees and wasn’t wearing the airline’s uniform.
Jernnard was jailed on $1 million bail pending a preliminary hearing on April 5.
The plane took off after Jernnard was removed, a police spokeswoman said.
The incident was similar to one committed by ultimate fraudster Frank Abagnale, but it’ll likely end differently.
Abagnale, who is played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, faked his way into flying alongside pilots with Pan American Airlines. He forged his pilot’s ID and Federal Aviation Administration license.
After serving prison time for the crimes he committed, Abagnale was granted parole in exchange for teaching the Federal Bureau of Investigation everything he knew on illegal activities including check fraud and embezzlement.
Post researcher Michelle Quigley and Post writer Alexandra Seltzer contributed to this article.
UNRULY PASSENGERS THROUGH THE YEARS
Dec. 2001 — Richard Reid attempts to ignite explosive devices embedded in his shoes on a flight from Paris to Miami. He is overpowered by passengers and crew. TSA soon requires travelers to remove their shoes for screening.
Dec. 2009 — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempts to detonate an explosive device hidden in his underwear. A Dutch airline passenger, Jasper Schuringa ripped the flaming, molten object — which resembled a small, white shampoo bottle — off Abdul Mutallab’s left leg, near his crotch. He said he put out the fire with his bare hands. Schuringa yelled for water, and members of the flight crew soon appeared with fire extinguishers. Then, he said, he hauled the suspect out of the seat and held him in a chokehold
Aug. 2010 – JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater gets into an argument with a passenger and is arrested after cursing the passenger over the intercom, grabbing a beer from the beverage cart, and fleeing the plane via the emergency exit slide.
Nov. 2010 — TSA rolls out new pat-down procedures. John Tyner, a California software engineer, posts on his blog that he was ejected and threatened with a fine for refusing a groin check after turning down a full-body scan at San Diego airport. He told a TSA agent, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.”
May 2011 – Three incidents of unruly and/or intoxicated passengers taken into custody, two for attempting to open exit doors and one for pounding on the cockpit door.
June 2011 – Two passengers removed on two successive JetBlue flights from West Palm Beach to Boston, one for slapping a flight attendant, one for punching a flight attendant and shouting profanities.
July 2011 – Brothers Jonathan and Luis Baez arrested after attacking the pilot who kicked one of them off an American Airlines flight from Miami to San Francisco.
Dec. 5 – Three women are escorted off a flight from West Palm Beach to New York. The women claim the male flight attendant’s behavior was out of line, but he claims they’re at fault.
Dec. 6 – Actor Alec Baldwin removed from an American Airlines flight (or possibly left the flight voluntarily) after having words with a flight attendant when he refused to turn off his cell phone. Some reports say he was playing Words with Friends; others say he was talking on the phone.
Sources - TSA, Palm Beach Post archives, other published reports
— Palm Beach Post Staff Researchers Michelle Quigley and Niels Heimeriks