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The French Connection: A rational discussion on CDG

The French Connection: A rational discussion on CDG

 
Old Jan 4, 06, 5:36 am
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 269
Ohhhhhhhhh wait, almost forgot...

...my favorite experience at CDG, in the Continental Terminal,where you enter and go through security to the left of the check-in desks, then are directed to the right to find that -- due to some lame-brained architect's idea of efficiency, you have to bring your heavy luggage up two flights of stairs and walk through a smoked-choked cafe only to have to bring your luggage back downstairs about 10' later. Try that with an 80-y.o. grandmother at your side.

I'm getting annoyed just thinking about it.

CDG = Pathetic
dthernandez is offline  
Old Jan 4, 06, 6:44 am
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
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I lived in France

Having recently moved back to the US after living near Paris, I feel compelled to add my 2 centimes.

I love many many things about France and miss them terribly - the daily baguettes, the TGV, the inexpensive and high-quality soaps, the metro, the cafes and restos near my maison.

On the other hand, I really dislike CDG. The food is terrible, especially after you go through security (terminals 2A, 2B, etc). There aren't very many restrooms and they are cramped (even by Parisian standards). People are always smoking just inside the doors. My main gripe is that it is an older airport not designed to handle today's travel. This results in confusing crowds and lines during peak hours. Announcements for many international flights are made only in French (I've experienced this with flights to the US, to Asia, and within the EU). I understand French reasonably well, but there were an awful lot of non-French tourists on those flights who were confused. You take a CO flight from the US to Mexico or France and you get announcements in English and Spanish or French. Announcements should be made in the local language and the destination language. Figuring out the RER is confusing - fortunately I speak French well enough to ask for help the first time. I can't count the number of times I helped confused English-speakers after that.

One great CDG experience: I was coming to the US for a job interview, and I brought a few bottles of wine as a gift for a friend. The CDG security guard went through my bag and found the wine. He reminded me that I was way over the customs limit for wine. Then he proceeded to carefully wrap each bottle of wine in a piece of clothing to "protect it from breaking and from the customs."

LawFlyer - I'm surprised and pleased to hear of your positive experiences with French banks. Do you always deal with the same branch? Because I did business in two different towns, I thought it would be easier to occassionally use another branch of my bank. No can do! This multinational bank based in France cannot figure out how to provide me services at two branches. !!! I'm still in a struggle to close my French bank account.
WineIsGood is offline  
Old Jan 4, 06, 7:24 am
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 596
I think 2 items need to be clearly separated:

1) Continental and agents at CDG; just fine as any other station
2) CDG as an airport; I have experienced only few real mishaps, they almost all occurred at CDG... (GRU is a runner-up though).

In my opinion it has all to do with the (poor) infrastructure. I like chaos with a special flavour, but at CDG it is just a bit over the top (trying to put it mildly).

I agree with LAWFLYER that being a regular at CDG might improve things somewhat, but I don't look forward to become a very regular given the circumstances.

Last edited by sic incognito; Jan 4, 06 at 7:27 am
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Old Jan 4, 06, 7:31 am
  #19  
Moderator: Flying Blue (Air France & KLM), France and TravelBuzz!
 
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Originally Posted by WineIsGood
The food is terrible, especially after you go through security (terminals 2A, 2B, etc).
The food is quite good landside, with the two restaurants in the Sheraton hotel, the brasserie Flo in 2F and the two food courts (between 2A&2C, and between 2B&2D)

Originally Posted by WineIsGood
There aren't very many restrooms and they are cramped (even by Parisian standards).
Over the last two years, the situation has improved, starting at the TGV station and going eastward with 2E and 2F. ADP is currently improving the situation west of the TGV station, but there is still some work to do, especially in 2B and 2D.

Originally Posted by WineIsGood
People are always smoking just inside the doors. My main gripe is that it is an older airport not designed to handle today's travel. This results in confusing crowds and lines during peak hours.
That CDG2 is still capable of operating with one of its six terminals, the most up to date, out of commission is a tribute to the work of AF and ADP staff. In the future, AF and SkyTeam partners operations will be centered East of the TGV station on the 2E/2F combination, the S3 satellite (under construction), the S4 satellite (being planned) and the regional aircraft satellite. So there is a potential for development and if it is implemented correctly, CDG will gradually become an increasingly efficient hub.


Originally Posted by WineIsGood
Announcements for many international flights are made only in French (I've experienced this with flights to the US, to Asia, and within the EU). I understand French reasonably well, but there were an awful lot of non-French tourists on those flights who were confused. You take a CO flight from the US to Mexico or France and you get announcements in English and Spanish or French. Announcements should be made in the local language and the destination language.
This surprises me as I have always heard announcements in the halls and the lounges in both English and French.

Originally Posted by WineIsGood
Figuring out the RER is confusing - fortunately I speak French well enough to ask for help the first time. I can't count the number of times I helped confused English-speakers after that.
Well, there is room for a lot of improvements at SNCF (French railways).

Last edited by JOUY31; Jan 4, 06 at 10:35 am
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Old Jan 4, 06, 7:41 am
  #20  
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Originally Posted by dthernandez
1) Three times, when I've arrived at CDG to meet a pre-arranged car, the driver could not find me and vice-versa because the arrivals hall is so choked with people that it takes 20 minutes of jostling just to get across the 30' room.
Well, I usually have no problem and it usually takes me 2mn to cross an arrival hall. Any specific terminal in mind ?

Originally Posted by dthernandez
2) It seems virtually impossible to transfer by walking through the airport (I've asked too) and I am directed downstairs to wait for yet another crowded bus to take me the long way around the airport to get to my new terminal. Fighting for space, holding heavy lugagge, unpleasant.
You can easily transfer between terminals by walking, actually this is my preferred transfer method, landside. You cannot do it airside, but it is a problem only if you are connecting in CDG from a non-Schengen destination to another non-Schengen destination. If you are connecting between a Schengen destination and a non-Schengen destination, you need to clear immigration at some point, anway. And if you are connecting between Schengen destinations, it is not an issue.

Originally Posted by dthernandez
3) Finally, passport control is a joke. I arrived from Johannesburg in August to CDG only to find that there was one control agent waiting for an entire widebody of passengers. Total wait time: 1 hour and 15 minutes. Yes, Heathrow is bad, but no where near as bad as this. There was no other line to go into, just one long hallway and one, slow, disgruntled immigration officer.
Well, even though the queues are disorganized, especially in 2A and 2C, going through immigration doesn't take me more than 15mn. The queues are indeed better organized in the US, but it usually takes me from 45mn to 1h45, except in the past in LAX when I could use the Inspass. So 1h15mn definitely seems to me like an unusual occurrence.
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Old Jan 4, 06, 8:46 am
  #21  
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It comes down to personal preference for me. I prefer not to connect through CDG, AMS will always be my preference. The French are decent people and it's not right always to blame them, but from a apassenger standpoint CDG is not the greatest airport to connect through and some of the ground staff there feels like they were tranplanted from EWR. You can get that anywhere though.

-Vincent
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Old Jan 4, 06, 8:49 am
  #22  
 
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No customs 'limit' for wine if you're willing to pay duty

Originally Posted by WineIsGood
I was coming to the US for a job interview, and I brought a few bottles of wine as a gift for a friend. The CDG security guard went through my bag and found the wine. He reminded me that I was way over the customs limit for wine. Then he proceeded to carefully wrap each bottle of wine in a piece of clothing to "protect it from breaking and from the customs."
Two cases of wine, with a reasonable allowance for packing materials, is just over the international 32 kilo / 70 lb checked bag weight limit. This is a hard limit; rather than charging a penalty, they can simply refuse your bag. I worried about this most recently on my return from Thailand; one bag consisted solely of a mortar and pestle with a one gallon capacity, and it was just at the limit. The trip home destroyed the bag, but the contents (wrapped in a tarp and surrounded by stiff foam blocks) arrived fine.

Short each case of wine by one bottle, for a total of 22 bottles, and you're generally fine, unless some bottles are glass monstrousities.

Some styro wine packers are small enough that two strapped together make the dimensional limits for checked bags. Alternatively, ample quantities of bubble wrap and reinforced packing tape can do the job. I use the original cardboard wine case boxes, wrap each bottle individually so there's no room for any bottle to budge and the whole box is under positive pressure, then 'contain' it with reinforced packing tape. Two such boxes then go in a large box that still makes the dimensional limit, with ample padding to survive any conceivable drop / blow. This is more secure than styro packers if done right, but a labor of love; the stryro packers are designed to be quick loading for commercial use.

The foreign words for 'bubble wrap' are rarely in phrase books or friends' memories, and rarely as short a phrase as in English; good luck. Best to simply bring a sample piece with you.

I visited friends as they moved from a hut above Recco to a villa in Lucca, arriving with only carry-on luggage so I could help bring home a year's accumulation of wine as checked luggage. I transported 44 bottles in two boxes for them. At JFK, it took four customs agents a very perplexed half an hour to decide to charge me nothing. It's legal to bring home excess wine, as long as one declares it and is willing to pay duty. (Apparently, it's also legal to bring home small quantities of seriously controlled substances, as long as a prescription is technically possible in the U.S., they're in original packaging, for personal use, and declared. I forget the exact quantity limit. I'd print out the relevant customs web page first to have along, as no customs agent I queried about this rule had any clue.)

Later, these same friends had 12 sturdy boxes made up to exactly checked baggage dimensional limits, and paid excess baggage fees to fly home with a year's accumulated belongings. I met them at JFK with a rented U-Haul truck. First meal after a year on the Med was Korean BBQ.
Syzygies is offline  
Old Jan 4, 06, 8:54 am
  #23  
 
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Originally Posted by Syzygies
It's legal to bring home excess wine, as long as one declares it and is willing to pay duty.
I should say that I wanted to bring the excess wine without an annoying trip into the customs corral. On the down-low, if you will.
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Old Jan 4, 06, 10:08 am
  #24  
 
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I think it's a mistake to try to equate people not liking an airport with "blaming the French" for...various unspecified things. French people are great. I like them. Even Blair! They are no more rude in customer service settings than the Spanish, for example. Europe is different and the way CS people interact with their customers are different. Once you become accustomed it really is no big deal. Everything still gets done.

CDG, on the other hand, is a disaster. After reading the OP I have to wonder if he's really ever been inside another airport! Better than AMS? They have a museum, a casino, hotel, comfortable, quiet places to grab some sleep if you need it, showers open to the public, and the new KL Crown lounge is wonderful. And then there's the process of connecting there vs. CDG:

AMS: Arrive > travelator to immigration > stop by the Crown lounge for breakfast or a sandwich > travelator to your departure gate
CDG: Arrive > bus to terminal > follow other pax into a dead end and fight your way back > up the stairs to the rat-maze that leads to immigration > down some more stairs > onto another bus > back to some other terminal > up the stairs > stop by the lounge for a cracker > care for another bus ride? > down the stairs to departure gate, where you will board yet another bus

They do have the HabiTrail thing going on, at least.
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Old Jan 4, 06, 11:09 am
  #25  
 
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I have no problem with the cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Dislike of the French (or the French not liking Americans) is just one of those things that's put out there and accepted by many as fact, though is not entirely true.

I equate it with French people thinking their counterparts from Belgium are buffoons (think Polish jokes).

Generalizations will always abound.
Wallstreet10006 is offline  
Old Jan 4, 06, 3:44 pm
  #26  
 
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Originally Posted by alanw
CDG: Arrive > bus to terminal > follow other pax into a dead end and fight your way back > up the stairs to the rat-maze that leads to immigration > down some more stairs > onto another bus > back to some other terminal > up the stairs > stop by the lounge for a cracker > care for another bus ride? > down the stairs to departure gate, where you will board yet another bus
Thanks for bringing up the buses. I had suppressed the memory of them. *shudder*
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Old Jan 4, 06, 4:52 pm
  #27  
 
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Originally Posted by LawFlyer
I realize I am headed into deep water, but my curisotiy has gotten the better of me. So, here we go.
I admire you for starting this thread - which of course turned into another bashing opportunity for at least CDG if not the country it's located in... I completely agree with (most of) your statements.

CDG is a confusing airport for a first-comer - I think that explains many of the varying views of CDG. Once you know CDG, it's easy - as you correctly note. But if people immediately give up on it - then they won't.

And a simple "bon jour" does wonders - hey guys, you're in a foreign country, I'd love to see how a person speaking only French would fare at JFK...

There's also a huge difference between T2 and T1, and between sub-terminals at T2. I arrived from BKK recently and I thought the renovations of T1 that are in place were excellent.


Best,

Last edited by Braniff; Jan 5, 06 at 4:53 am
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Old Jan 4, 06, 7:04 pm
  #28  
 
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In my view, there are really three distinct CDG experiences, which are:

-CDG Terminal 2 before roof collapse. I went thru this a couple of times and it was a pleasure-high ceilings, wide hallways, great shopping after security, and ample seating.

-CDG Terminal 2 since roof collapse. The temporary operations have turned the back half of the operation into organized chaos, with bus rides required to many flights, which in turn requires getting to your gate 45 minutes before scheduled departure (my last Delta flight even had this printed on my boarding pass). Perhaps the worst outgrowth of this is that from day to day there is no consistency in how things are done, so neither passengers nor ground personnel have any "habits" to fall back on. I think the repetitive nature of airport operations provides a lot of the efficiency and comfort we usually feel and here it's gone.

BTW, anyone know when 2E will be back to normal?

-Terminal 1. Old, cramped, home to all the orpan airlines who have neither a lot of flights nor any affiliation with AF. I used to try to avoid CDG1 but now I much prefer it because while it is crowded, after check-in, it works well. The new food court downstairs isn't fine dining but can suffice. Passport control both ways takes 10-15 minutes, which as someone noted is much better than in the USA (and they don't have immigration employees yelling orders like a concentration camp). Security is at the front of each concourse and has rarely taken me more than 5 minutes. Shopping is crowded but you can find plenty to read, listen to, eat and drink.

I haven't connected at CDG so I have no perspective on that.
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Old Jan 4, 06, 8:23 pm
  #29  
 
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Originally Posted by Braniff
And a simple "bon jour" does wonders - hey guys, you're in a foreign country, I'd love to see how a person speaking only French would fare at JFK...
You would be surprised. I would assume that a person only speaking French in JFK would fare quite well. First they might find someone that spoke french. Otherwise they would do pantomine like the best of us. People would understand that they did not speak English and would make allowances.

I have been in Indonesia and I do not speak Bahasa Indonesian or Javanese. When I am there I do the best I can and I am not treated poorly for it. In Paris if you do your best you can still often be sneered at, not given service, or worse. Like I said before I like the French, but this rudeness is not a made up cultural trait, or a matter of realizing that one is in a "foreign country" as you said. It is a real issue that reflects poorly on the country. They should strive to change the attitude.

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Old Jan 4, 06, 9:29 pm
  #30  
 
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First, I want to add my thanks to the OP for a thoughfull (and obviously thought out) post. I have been mystified as well by the vitriol concerning CDG. Lets face it: we all travel a lot and all have our share of horror stories. No airport is perfect at all times (some less so than others). That said, I have never had more than average problems at CDG and it is, in fact, my transfer hub of choice in Europe. I can't get to LHR on CO from Houston, LGW has really a dearth of connections at convenient times and AMS never seems to have a convenient connection for me. Those are the only non-stop European hubs reachable from Houston and I, at all costs, avoid going to EWR. I have, in fact, had more problems at EWR than anywhere else in the world!

As for the other "myths" cited by the OP, every country and every culture has its idiosyncracies. We would have a lot less war and strife if we would try to see and tolerate (if not accept) the differences. Many foreigners have their share of negative opinions about Americans, some true but many not. The world is a multifacted, multicultural place and we would all do well to remember that it is these differences that make travel interesting. As the French would say - Vive La Difference!
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