Sunday, February 17, 2008

Avoid CDG

On my way into Europe I connected through Charles DeGaulle Airport, where I and a few others on the same connection were met by an agent, who took us to a car on the tarmac and took us directly to our next gate. No problem.

On my return, I had no such luck. Even though my incoming flight was 45 minutes late and I had barely an hour before my next flight, no agent met me. And it took me nearly the entire hour to make it to my next connection, leaving me a whopping 5 minutes before the door practically closed on my ass. What's wrong with CDG? Let me count the ways:

  • No Signs - Apparently the French are lazy or just poor planners (probably both). CDG recently re-opened wing 2E which was rebuilt after it collapsed and killed four people a few years ago. I arrived in terminal 2F and THERE ARE NO SIGNS IN 2F SHOWING THE WAY TO 2E! This is ridiculous. The two wings may be numbered close together, but these terminals are over half a mile apart, and there is no train, bus or people-mover between the terminals.

  • Leaving the Airport to Connect - To connect between these two gates, you actually leave the airport, go through baggage claim, and enter it again. Maybe this is true in other airports, but there are at least signs pointing the way!

  • Closed Information Booths - Seeing how there were signs to every other terminal except 2E I was getting panicked until finally saw an "Information" sign. Relieved, I trotted to the booth, which was CLOSED. This was on a Friday morning at 9:45, working hours for the rest of the world. But not in France, where the booths are apparently open between 1:30pm and 1:45pm, after lunch and before the afternoon smoking break.

  • Typical French Help - Seeing that the info booth was closed, I figured I would ask airport workers. Of course there were no workers in the airport - probably a strike that week - so I finally asked someone at a coffee kiosk. I said "2-E?", got a blank stare, then tried "deux E?". She looked at me with a confused look, but I knew she understood what I was saying. I did a sarcastic "Thank-you, you have been REAL helpful", which got a reaction from her, which means she understood everything I said in English. I picked a random direction and lucked out.

  • Multiple Waits Between Wings - While I headed in the right direction, I wasn't home free. Not only did I have to pass through passport control, but also the security line. At passport, I waived to an agent who was close by signaling my flight was leaving in less than 30 minutes. He shrugged and pointed me at the end of the line. The same thing happened at the security line when I had 15 minutes left (damn French - even another European next to me in line made the same comment: "My flight is leaving very soon and no one cares").

Of course luck would have it that my gate was the farthest away after security. After running and running - and running some more - I finally made it to my gate where the stand-by passengers were just finishing getting on the plane. Luckily they had not released my seat or they would have written a new definition for "Ugly American".

So next time, I am connecting through Heathrow or Amsterdam. I am finished with CDG.

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