My Trip Through Paris de Gaulle

In case anyone thought I was picking on Delhi yesterday, I thought I would wine a bit about Charles de Gaulle as well. I suppose that things get more frustrating when you are on your way home, but this airport was really trying my patience.

I get off my Air France flight from Delhi to Paris, and look for my connecting flight, a Delta flight to Minneapolis. Luckily I was sitting beside a nice man on the flight who was going to Atlanta, and he knew that we were switching terminals, so we headed down the hall and down the escalator to the buses. At the bottom of the escalator is a small room that is rapidly filling with people. There is no bus, and people can’t leave to stand outside, there is a guard, but people keep coming down the escalator. We lost all bits of personal space, and this from two people that had just come from India. We waited while two buses that no one wanted came by, then when the bus we ALL wanted came, there was a mini stampede to the door. Obviously we didn’t all get on. More waiting.

I finally got a bus and we got to the next terminal. It didn’t seem “next door” by the way. Good job we didn’t try to run for it. I got the the terminal and started walking around. There was nothing on my ticket about the connecting flight, and nothing on any boards about a Minneapolis flight. Finally I found someone to ask, and was told to take the light rail to the other part of the terminal. Sheesh. Found that, went in the correct direction thank goodness, and came out in an area that was unsecured.

Fabulous. I got to go through security all over again. I had a lovely French woman ask if I had anything in my bags that was electronic. I said all of it. She figured I didn’t understand, so she asked again slower. I said “All laptops and cameras.” She said “take it all out.” “Seriously” I asked? “Yes, and hurry” she replied. Ha, I thought, if you want me to pull out everything here, I am not going to make things easier for you. I pulled out a blue plastic bin, and began taking things out one at a time. “Hurry sir” I heard. I took my cameras out first. “Hurry please sir” I heard again. I took my lenses out one by one. “Monsieur, the line is long, hurry please.” I started pulling out cords one by one, and putting them neatly into the in bin. The agent came over pushed the bin through the scanner, closed the lid on my camera bag, and pushed it in. “Go now,” she said. “Sure, no problem” I replied. I stuffed everything back into my bag as quick as I could, and got out. Don’t think I lost anything.

I then went and sat in the area you see in the picture. I wanted to send an email home. I saw a Wi-Fi logo, but when I got there I discovered that you could use their computers for a fee, but not your own via Wi-Fi. Really? The logo seems a stretch. So I wondered over and bought a small hot chocolate and a sprite for $8 US. Wow. I would love to know what those things normally cost in France. Maybe there is a lot of taxes. Maybe they just gouge travelers. Who knows.

I finally got my boarding call, and got in line. There was a gentleman looking at tickets, and telling some of us to go to a different line. The thing was, there was only one gate agent, and she was confused that there were two lines, and the other longer line was pissed that we were getting special treatment in a shorter line. He finally came back to us shrugging our shoulders wondering what was going on. Then he spoke the other gate agent who finally understood. She pulled out a computer terminal, and started giving those of us connecting from a non European destination the 3rd degree. I had to present my green card even, and answer the usual questions about who packed my bags and if I had anything dangerous on board like nail clippers. When the gate agent asked me where I had packed my bag, I was tempted to say just over there at security, but I figured she meant Delhi, so that’s what I said.

We were then kept separate in two lines that snaked around and around until we got to another gate agent that looked at our tickets, said “Bonjour, good morning” merged us into one line, and sent us to another escalator. Turns out that most of the “gates” are not at the terminal. You have to take a bus out onto the tarmac, where you wait until you are allowed to cross to the plane. Seriously, this was starting to seem more India than India. At this point I was too tired to be frustrated, and just wanted to get on the plane and sleep.

I was settled in, and falling asleep when the captain came on and told us that one of the pumps that pressurizes the cabin was not working. Judging by the weather front at North America, when we hit it, we would not have the ability to pressurize the cabin enough, and the masks would drop, and some low level distress signal would go out. We were an hour into the flight. We turned around – the captain didn’t put it to a vote – and we headed back. We maneuvered into our “gate” from before that is just a parking spot on the tarmac. And there we sat. I am not sure how long we were there. I stood up in the aisle and pretended to make small talk with the people returning from a two week bus tour of Italy. They were discussing if this South Italy trip was better than the the North Italy trip from a couple of years ago. No final decision could be reached.

We ended up pushing out from our “gate” with less than 5 minutes before we would have needed a crew change. The pilots on board would have had to work for too long once the delay and the actual trip were taken into account. If we would have had to wait for a new set of pilots to get out of bed and get to the airport, I think I would have flipped out. Well, at least just flopped down and started to cry.

Thankfully, my wife was checking the arrival times, and knew that I was late. There was no connectivity on the plane at all. Oh the joys of travel. You really do need to accept that delays, over anxious gate agents, lost bags, crazy connections, and stiff necks are the norm. Then when you finally do get to your destination and you bag actually shows up, you are so overjoyed that you almost forget the rest of your most recent adventure.

PS. A great big hug from my daughter didn’t hurt either