Airport review: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG)


AF1066 to Florence, economy


You never want to cut it fine when you are heading to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. It usually takes close to an hour to make the 35 kilometre trip by road from the centre of Paris; if the traffic is heavy, it may take 90 minutes or more. Travelling by RER train is usually a better option, with a trip from the centre of town taking about 40 minutes. As my flight leaves at 7am I opt for a car transfer and at this early hour there is very little traffic on the road and I reach the airport in around 40 minutes.


The airport is notorious among travellers for its massive sprawl. It's not just the terminals that are far apart. Even getting from one sub-terminal to another (from 2B to 2E, for example) can be a schlep. Today I'm departing from Terminal 2F. Even in the early morning there are plenty of people, but the queues are mercifully short. When I arrive at the boarding gates, there seems to be a mass of available seating, each chair with its own charge points for mobiles and laptops. Half an hour later, however, the place has filled up and a free seat is hard to find.


I've checked in online, but I still need to drop off my bag. This is a full self-service procedure: print your tag, fasten it to your luggage, scan it in and drop it off. Both fastening the tag and using the handheld scanner require more coordination than I can easily summon at this time of the morning.


The queues at Charles de Gaulle are notorious. When I flew out of here a few months ago – from a different sub-terminal – our departure was delayed for an hour as we waited for people to make it through a severely-understaffed passport control. This time around, things go much more smoothly, perhaps because we're travelling within the Schengen zone so there is no passport control. The only delay comes from the trio of clueless travellers in front of me who keep discovering more items in their pockets that they need to put in the tray.


Plenty of outlets offering light snacks, as well as a Laduree store for those who need a macaron fix before they leave, but not much in the way of restaurants.


All the shops are shut when I arrived but shortly after 6am, most of the high-end fashion outlets have opened their doors and are waiting for customers.


Free Wi-Fi makes it easy to fill in any wait time. If you need a pit stop, allow time to trek to the toilets, which are a bit of a hike. However, this is one area where Charles de Gaulle gets full marks – not only are the toilets clean and styled in cheery shades of pink and red, they also have an abundance of cubicles for women. Should you need to overnight, you have a large range of hotel options to choose from, including chains such as Ibis, Hilton and Sheraton.


I have had some very stressful experiences at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, but this is not one of them.