Monday, February 14, 2011

Do not fly through Charles de Gaulle

Last December we were going to NY, we were booked to leave on the 15th from Athens, direct to NY.
Three days before we heard about an air controller’s strike for the 15th. We changed our flight for the day before, the 14th, it was not direct and it was via Paris. Athens to Paris, Paris to NY. It seemed easy enough. We had an hour in Paris to change planes, same terminal, no big deal, or so I thought. The dreaded Charles de Gaulle airport suddenly is going to change all that.

I remember this airport and all the hype it got when it was built in the mid 70’s, it was modern and did not look like any other airport at the time. They have added on to it for the past 30 years, some of it isn’t even connected to the original; maybe it is not even in Paris. This monster airport has grown in a seemingly haphazard way. Parts of it have even collapsed.

The people that work there do not seem to have an idea of where anything is, certainly not any of the gates. But I am getting ahead of myself, back to the beginning of our trip.

We started very early, 3 am, by taxi from Porto Heli to go to the airport for our flight to Paris at 7am. Tiring but no big deal. Flight to Paris fine, considering today’s flights. Cramped, crowded but on time. We now arrive at the dreaded Charles de Gaulle airport. We land nowhere near the terminal; the plane lumbers around the airport and finally stops at some bus station in the middle of nowhere. We load on the bus and off we go to more or less where the plane originally landed, I think.

Into the terminal and the search begins for our gate for New York. I ask and am told different directions, the signs lead us outside, we rush around, the wheel chair we ordered for Jeannine is nowhere to be seen. We end up on the sidewalk outside; we go back inside and through the security check for the second time in France.

I finally go crazy at some guy that tells us to go outside and enter the terminal next door. Suddenly a man in a suit appears and reassures me that we are in the right place, but we have to hurry since the plane is loading. “It is close,” he says, we take off, sort of running, more like staggering. I have the hand luggage, two small bags, that weigh a ton by now and a computer bag. Jeannine, who supposedly needed a wheelchair, takes off to the gate, running to make sure they wait for us, for me especially.

We get there and are told there are some passengers still missing; also some of the crew cannot find the plane. We stumble on board and find ourselves in first class, this plane had two doors, and we got in the first one. First class looked pretty good and I asked if we could upgrade, the flight attendant told us it was full and could not do that, even when I offered one of our kids.

We got to our seats and were pleasantly surprised; roomy, pleasant attendants, drinks, movies, it just might be ok, in spite of starting from the dreaded de Gaulle airport.

The trip, after the insanity of de Gaulle airport is pleasant, normal and we get to NY fine.

It has been one of the longest trips we ever made, door to door.

I will never go through that airport again, I will also try not to even have it as my destination. There has to be another way to get to Paris.


  1. Thanks for a good laugh! It makes my long day feel not so long.

  2. Hysterical. Sounds like a Neil Simon play. At least it was fodder for an article so something came out of the experience,

  3. I just read this. Several times I have flown to Athens through CDG on Delta with one hour to do it. It's impossible! You have to go through passport control in a huge room packed with thousands and then two different security lines in two different terminals. Several times, after running like crazy, I've ended up missing the plane and weeping at the gate and getting absolutely no sympathy from any of the French folks. (Even though I screamed at the guard in the passport line IN FRENCH and he replied with a Gallic shrug "C'est ne pas ma faute!)" Now I know whenever booking that one hour--even two--is not enough to get through CDG (although the last time my relative was in a wheel chair and we had a wily young man pushing her who took us through basements and up elevators and across highways and got us to the next plane barely in time. He was pushing my relative in a wheelchair. And I was trotting behind, and a lovely blind young woman (another one of his charges) was holding onto me. Then she (the blind woman) said she wanted to stop for a cigarette break. We out-voted her.

  4. Joan, very funny...but sad as well...stay out of CDG at all costs

  5. Greg/Joan My husband had exactly the same reaction when he flew from Athens to the US via CDG a few years fact he didn't make the connection and had to wait for the next one... he swears he won't go near the place again. You should swap horror stories when we get to meet up!