Friday, June 8, 2012

"The worst airport in the world."

You now know that I am back in the US, but I figured I would reflect on my travels home (a week ago).

I decided to fly AirFrance since I refused to associate with Iberia (or anything in the One World alliance that may fly me on Iberia) because as you might know, Spain loves a good strike. And Iberia has been on strikes, no joke, every Monday and Friday of every week for the past couple months (and for a few more months into the future). I didn't want to deal with that crap, so I figured I would do the same route I did from Christmas, flying to Paris then home.

I don't think I mentioned the details of the time I originally took this route during Christmas, but I will mention it now. CDG (Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris) is quite a...trek. You have to be prepared to hike miles to transfer planes. It's a bit ridiculous.

No, this is not a "must just be you" kind of thing. When researching stuff for this blog post, I came across this dandy comment from Bill:

Time it takes from terminal 2G to terminal 2E, departure gate on the L port.
- Bill Bray
For anyone interested, it took me exactly 50 minutes to get from the arrival gate at 2G to the departure gate in Terminal 2E, port L, to get on a flight to Minneapolis. If you already know you leave terminal 2E, that's half the battle. You go through customs in 2E just before you get on a shuttle to get to port L gates. The customs line wasn't long (Monday), and I believe there was an Orange line for those in a rush.

(4 Jun 2012 - 08:00)
Bill, you said it well. I am glad you didn't say it with a huff and puff as many Americans at the airport were so glad to do. I will get to his "half the battle" comment in a moment.

Okay, my plane arrives at 9:05am in Paris. My next flight leaves from the same airport, at 10:30am. Sound easy? Think again...

After stepping off the plane, I realize that I am not near the actual airport, but instead we are parked in the middle of the runway and have to take a bus. I am the last person on the first bus. The doors close and we sit. Meanwhile, the bus behind us fills up with the remaining passengers. An American man (man1) near me sighs audibly, telling his fellow travelers "THIS IS THE WORST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD. I should know, I travel a lot."

The mood is set.

We wait, and wait, and wait some more. Man1 tells the driver to just GO already, because he sees no point in waiting (honestly, I don't either). The driver gets out, no rush, saunters on over to one of the "here is the bus, please get on the bus" guys, and they chat, laugh, smile. They are probably talking about croissants and lunch and nothing about the bus at all. The driver saunters back into her drivers seat. We wait.

Ten minutes have passed since we got in the bus, and the doors reopen, and the "here is the bus" man gets on our already cramped bus. Three people try talking to him at once (all Americans). "Sorry, I can only listen to one person at a time." Man2 speaks, kindly, "Do they know we have connections that we have to get to in a hurry?" "Yes, we are moving as fast as we can." Man2 is done, because really, there is nothing you can do at this point. At least now the bus is moving. Man3 takes the silence as his chance to speak. "Can you tell me why the hell we were waiting for so long for the second damn bus to get moving?" "Sir, we had to wait for the other passengers." "Like hell we did! We could've gone!" "We had to wait sir." "I DON'T LIKE YOUR ATTITUDE! APOLOGIZE!" "Sorry sir, you are right, we didn't have to wait." "Yeah, you bet I am right." I thought Man1 was gonna throw in a "Yeah, and your airport sucks!" just for good measure, but he didn't. I don't know why they say we Americans are so annoying.

We get to the airport a couple minutes later, and being right near the door, I book it out of the bus and start jogging towards the main area of the airport. As Bill said, "half the battle" is knowing your terminal. Why? Because once you get off that bus and into the airport, you are in some tiny terminal area that only has information on that tiny terminal area, and none of the other, oh, 100 flights leaving from CDG. No, you have to seek out that information, and that information is a good foot blister away.

So I am booking it through the escalators, hallways, and front entrance, along with Man2, who also had that connection. I felt like I was in high school, running the mile. "Just stay behind this guy, because he's got a good pace and won't wear you out, and you'll make good time." But, as in high school, the running turned into huffing, puffing, and walking in about 5 minutes flat. I lost Man2, but I trust he got to where he needed to go.

Finally, I got to the big board and saw CHICAGO and the terminal. Terminal 2E. Luckily I have done this before because the signs are a bit confusing. See, there are signs that just say "To Terminal E" but don't say "2" because you are already supposed to magically know the airport layout and that 2 includes E. And A, B, C, and D. Because Terminal 1 and 3 don't have letters, don't you know?

Blue star is the starting point. Red star, the destination.  Using Google Maps, I calculated the distance between those points, walking, is about 1.15 miles. 
Once you get past the confusing signs, the maze of perfumeries and macaron stands, the moving walkways and escalators, you find yourself in customs, entering Gate 2E. I feel bad for people who fell for the french perfume souvenir ideas and bought huge bottles of expensive stuff or boxes of food that will get seized in the security line. I get through customs and go to the security line. A young ticket scanner at the end of the line says "Chicago? You need to go to Gate L!" Gate L is nowhere on maps I have found online, because on maps it is referred to as "La Galerie Parisienne" which is just a fancy word for "Gate we want to sound fancy." Luckily, I am right near the train (yes, you have to get on a train to get there) and it is just about to leave. I hop on the train and I am in *fancy french voice* La Galerie Parisienne. And SECURITY time!

After going through security and seriously regretting wearing my leather jacket because I am sweating a hot mess, I look at the signs. My flight leaves from E66. That is a quarter mile away.

Those Europeans love their walking! Even in their airports! I buy water immediately after exiting the security line. Since I've lost about a quart of sweat in the past hour, I need it. I am about to get a bottle of water from the cafe (4 euros? Ripoff!) when I see the cafe owner leisurely trying to piece together a broken bit of the countertop glass. I decide waiting would be annoying and walk next door to the news stand. A liter bottle, almost 3 times larger than the one I almost bought, cost 2 euros. I buy my water there. I am so smart.

I run to my gate, and what do you know, this galerie even has a "meditation area" with lots of weird chairs and sleeping people.
It's not even closed off from the gate beside it, so it doesn't exactly scream "relaxation" when there are people a stone's throw complaining about their seat assignments.
I didn't look at a clock very often, only when I was in line for customs, and when I was in customs it was about 9:45am. Now I am at my gate, and it of course is already boarding. I get on the plane, put my luggage in the overhead bin, sit down, and about 10 minutes later, the plane takes off.

Yes, it took almost an hour and 20 minutes to get to my plane. In a single airport. 

When I got to my seat on the plane, I was so excited, because it had one of those touch-screen entertainment systems with music, movies and games on-demand. You pick what you want. And that is what I definitely wanted for my 9 hour flight home.

Oh, but guess what? Mine was the only one BROKEN on the entire plane. So for nine hours, I read magazines (3 hours), slept (3 hours), ate (1 hour), and stared longingly at the functional screen of the man seated next to me, with no sound (2 hours).

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