• France's news in English

France's 'poet climber' slips past airport security

Joshua Melvin · 4 Jul 2014, 13:30

Published: 04 Jul 2014 13:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

If you are fed up with jumping through ever numerous security hoops at airports the latest stunt from an eccentric French daredevil, who enjoys exposing security weaknesses will delight - or perhaps frighten you.

Hervé Couasnon, the self-styled “poet-climber”, named for his love of illicitly scaling buildings in artistic stunts, managed to board an Air France flight on Thursday at Charles de Gaulle airport without a ticket.

The 56-year-old former bus driver would have gotten away with it too, but the Rome-bound flight was packed so the rightful owner of his seat eventually showed up to claim his spot. That proved to be Couasnon’s undoing.

“I got through the security checks and boarding without a boarding pass or a ticket!,” he told AFP. “The goal was to show weaknesses in airport security.”

(Here Couasnon gets the boot from Elysée Palace. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP)

Coincidently, the stunt came the same day as new, tougher security procedures were announced for US-bound direct flights embarking from certain French airports. Because Couasnon tried to fly from Paris to Rome he may not have been subject to the additional security, which French authorities have so far refused to describe in detail.

Couasnon, who was clad in a business suit, took advantage of several blind spots to sneak aboard the flight. First, he flew into Charles de Gaulle aboard a flight from Bordeaux in western France.

He had a ticket and showed proper ID before getting on that flight, but once his plane landed in Paris he didn’t leave the terminal like the other passengers. He waited there for the flight to Rome, which meant he didn’t have to go through a security checkpoint.

Then Couasnon passed himself off as the aide for a person in a wheelchair who was pushed aboard the flight by an airline employee. It’s unclear if the person in the wheelchair was in on the stunt.

(Couasnon atop a theatre at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989. Photo: AFP)

Story continues below…

After being forced out of his seat by the rightful passenger he gave himself up peacefully to police.

It’s the latest in a string of high-profile security breaches that include scaling the U.S. Embassy in Paris and France’s National Assembly. In the latter incident he even managed to approach then-Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in July 2002 and hand him a sport trophy.

In May 2012 he slipped past the security at a French nuclear power station. However, an incursion aboard a plane in Toulouse, where he tried to get into the cockpit to “transmit a message of peace” led to him being forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital for a month.    

It’s a “painful memory” for an “enthusiast of outsider art,” his lawyer Pierre Daniel-Lamazière told AFP at the time.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President Fran├žois Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available