I have decided that Charles de Gaulle airport, outside of Paris, France, is one of the worst attempts at a functional person/airplane interface that I have yet seen. Given that I am from New York City, this is fairly damning. I arrived at this conclusion on the second trip through said airport, connecting from San Marco airport in Venice through to JFK in New York City. I had passed through on my way to Venice, coming from Boston Logan (BOS), several days before.

On landing at CDG the first time, I was tasked with connecting from one Air France flight to another, with 55 minutes to make the connection. Distrusting airline luggage handling immensely, I was carrying all my belongings in two carry-on bags. Upon disembarking from the Boeing 767 that had brought me to CDG, I was directed to a counter where an agent de Correspondance (transfer agent) awaited. I discovered that I had arrived in Hall 2C, and needed to reach Hall 2F.

CDG is built like a three-loop figure eight. TGV tracks bisect the airport along the long axis. The method of moving from Hall to Hall (each 1/2 loop, above and below the tracks, is a Hall) is to take a shuttle bus that travels around the outside of the terminals on a loop road, passing underneath the jetways. After a moment at passport control (the world is at peace, so I got through in five seconds) I moved downstairs to catch the shuttle bus.

The shuttle bus, natch, was delayed. I waited fifteen minutes to catch this necessary step in my transport. It took ten minutes to arrive at terminal 2F, for some reason. After leaving it, I dashed upstairs and made my flight...however, after having my ticket checked and walking out the gate, I found myself back on the ground level at another bus. We loaded into that bus and it took off. After fifteen minutes, it was actually paused under the gate where I had disembarked my international flight. Then it moved off again, this time onto the airfield where a few Air France medium jets waited. After a few moments, however, it stopped, and the man next to me mumbled "Ah, merde, Charles de Gaulle..."

When no explanation was forthcoming, I asked tentatively "Pardon, mais est-ce que nous sommes perdus?" Excuse me, but are we lost?

He laughed, and replied "Bah oui!" But of course!. From his and other folks' attitude, I gathered that CDG's buses were not to be trusted, even when they were the shuttles to the airplane. After a few fits and starts, we finally continued on, moving (it seemed) off the airfield, causing my neighbor to grumble that he'd never even seen this part of the airport. Turns out Air France had dumped us onto a charter; we made it, though.

On the way back through, I arrived at Hall 2F (E.U. flights), and needed to make it to (naturally) Hall 2C. After a walk of perhaps 1/2 kilometer through the terminal, we arrived at the inevitable shuttle bus stop, and waited. The shuttle only took 5 minutes to arrive and 5 minutes to make 2C this time (2C is the next stop on the loop from 2F; the first time we'd gone the long way around). However, once we made it into 2C's bowels, we found that we needed to pass through security. This is to be expected. In this case, though, there were perhaps four hundred people waiting to pass through, and only two gates at this station. I waited in that line for thirty minutes, while my flight's boarding was announced. Luckily, it was a 747-400, so boarding took a good long time, or there might have been problems.

Given that CDG is relatively modern, I would expect it to function better than this. Of course, I may just be expecting too much from the air travel industry.