Tackling CDG

After seeing the reader’s letter “CDG Airport Lag” (April ’07, pg. 28), regarding Charles de Gaulle airport and Air France, I had to write. I am a travel junkie who happens to work in retail in an airport. I have been through CDG 26 times in the last five years (most recently in October ’06), using Air France, and I have never missed a connection. I have heard about the signage and every other imaginable complaint about CDG and Air France.

I think people need to take a proactive position in booking connecting flights.

When calling for reservations, you have 48 hours before you have to pony up that credit card. You usually can fi nd out the terminals you will be going into and which ones you will be leaving from. Use those 48 hours to go online and check out the airport layout. Think big, because airports are. Allow yourself a little cushion in case of delays. If it doesn’t seem to you that you can make it from point A to point B in the time the agent is suggesting, have them book the next flight.

When you have a big snafu at the first part of your trip, it usually places a pall over the rest of the trip. You have at least 6-7 hours on the flight to do nothing, so get the magazine out and learn the airport layout before you land. It can save you time in getting to your next gate. Also, fill out your Immigration card ASAP. I’ve seen people at passport control who had not filled out their cards yet.

There are plenty of signs in CDG, but after working in an airport for eight years I’ve learned that the majority of people do not try to navigate on their own. To them, it’s easier to walk in a store and ask directions, which can cost them time.

Regarding seat assignments, the above-mentioned reader is correct. Air France does not give seat assignments until you arrive in Paris. They do give you your boarding pass in Dulles Airport before departure, however, so first head to your gate. Everyone on the flight is going to arrive at the same time anyway, regardless of where they sit. I think making the flight is more important than which seat I will sit in for 2 1/2 hours.

I truly believe there is an art to smooth, easy travel. It begins with lots of preplanning and being a bit detail-oriented. Air France has some of the best flights going and very good service. Passengers need to take some responsibility for what happens when they travel. Just because someone has bought a ticket, it doesn’t mean they also bought someone to think and do everything for them.


Alexandria, VA