Anne van Kesteren

Surprise at Charles de Gaulle

Lets first say that Charles de Gaulle isn’t really nice (the airport, not the man, although he might as well, I don’t know). It’s pretty big, but it’s completely unclear where you have to go. For example, what the best stop is to get out of the train from Paris; there is Charles de Gaulle 1 and 2 and no indication whatsoever as what you might find there. When you get out of the train it doesn’t become more clear. You might think that’s to help employment for the people who sit in “information offices.” The problem is that those people are not there anymore, at least not in my two subsequent visits to the airport.

The first time I went to the airport I asked a person in the train and was told (after he asked four other persons) Air France was at stop 2. There I was told by someone (not sitting behind the closed information office) that I had to go to Terminal 2E. After walking around for roughly fifteen minutes in Terminal 2E and getting in some line I was told I had to go to Terminal 2C instead. There I was told my ticket was never confirmed and I would have to pay 2800 euro to maybe get on the flight of tomorrow. Hah. (This is not the surprise the title is referring to by the way.) After having called with someone from Opera who arranges flight tickets I got a confirmation in my inbox for tickets with British Airways the next day.

Spend the rest of the day in Paris. Nice. Part of the next day too actually, the flight was leaving at 17:55.

This time I got out at stop 1. After talking to the people who drive the shuttles around and having sit in one I will go out at stop 2 next time I have a flight with British Airways from Charles de Gaulle. After having walked around in Terminal 2A for a bit I found where I had to be, collected my e-ticket, went past passport control and headed for the check-in (yeah, that’s what happened). Long line. Behind the “elite” entrance there was one automatic check-in computer. Fortunately other people are apparently allowed to use that as well. After doing the wrong thing (someone had to open the whole thing to get out my e-ticket) I could check-in using my credit card and e-ticket number and pick my seats for both flights I was going to make. At the baggage drop-off I was told I could enter the Lounge. I thought I misunderstood, but tried it anyway. Free cookies and drinks for me!

Besides that, I also discovered along the way I had two tickets (one to London and one to Boston from London) for Business Class. Nice! (Opera paid less than what I would have paid for the maybe tickets from Air France for Economy Class.) Especially the chairs in the flight from London to Boston where huge, really huge. I enjoyed my chair by sleeping most of the time, after having eaten a few things. They even had separate chairs for peoples feet. I probably should have taken a picture. Oh well.

Miscommunication can be positive! An extra day in Paris, Business Class and an extra day in Boston (although I had to turn one in as well for the Paris thing). Great!


  1. We flew through Charles de Gaulle on our way to the south of France last year. It was the strangest airport I've ever been in:

    1. The "passport control" coming in from Canada was non-existent -- we just walked past a man in a booth who seemed to have no desire to look at our passports.
    2. There was, as you indicate, very little signage of any use; it took us a long time to find our luggage, and we had to find the telephone to call Peugeot based on random wandering.
    3. The entire place has a "last renovated in 1972" feel to it.

    Much to our surprise and delight, the chaos ended abruptly when we found our way to the off-site Peugeot rental facility -- all of a sudden things snapped into brilliant efficiency and ease.

    Posted by Peter Rukavina at

  2. I think we're just spoiled by Schiphol. In all my travels around the world (India, the US, Thailand, etc) I always found that Schiphol nuked other countries' airports by comparison. If it were a web application... well, let's not make such geektastic analogies. ;-)

    Posted by Rahul at

  3. Copenhagen airport is pretty neat, too. Haven’t seen too much of SFO yet, but it’s very fast from arriving to getting out of the airport.

    Posted by Mark Wubben at

  4. Dude stop complaining, I'd trade a trip/diversion to the complicated CDG/Paris any day ;-)

    Posted by Serdar Kilic at

  5. And, do you have a jetlag? Or did the sleeping help? :)


    Posted by Laurens Holst at

  6. Well, I just fell asleep watching Miami Vice in the movie theatre, but mostly it’s going back to Europe that’s causing the trouble.

    Posted by Anne van Kesteren at

  7. Probably Dutch airports are indeed just a lot better. Last time I flew, which was between Eindhoven to Dublin, I remember the really bad runway at Dublin Airport, and it was totally unclear where we had to go (and then fortunately things are in English, which makes it a bit better - is there any English at CDG?).

    Good luck with the rest of the journey though!

    Posted by Mark at

  8. Hmm, sounds like a very interesting place kind of like a Treasure Hunt.

    Posted by Robert Wellock at