We're planning a May trip from Boston to Marseilles and will need to change planes, probably in Paris. How much time do we need in the Paris airport -- do we need to go through customs there, or only once we get to Marseilles?
I believe you'll go through immigration in Paris and customs in Marseilles. And immigration is the only part that takes any time. I don't think I've ever had more than a 5 or 10 minute wait at immigration in Paris. But we've always had carry-on only. If you check baggage and it's not checked all the way through, that will slow things down.
It's hard to know exactly how time you need without knowing which airlines/terminals are involved, but 90 minutes is a good ballpark estimate. Immigration (passport check) will be at CDG, customs the stuff you're bringing with you will be in Marseilles (but it's a walk through). You'll probably have to go through another security clearance at CDG as well.
Robert is right that if your luggage isn't checked through to Marseille, it will take more time in Paris. But, there's no reason it shouldn't be checked through, particularly if you are flying Air France all the way on one ticket. When you check in in Boston, make sure your luggage tags say MRS; you then won't see them until you land in Marseille. Use www.Kayak.com to find all the flight options; I flew on Lufthanasa from JFK through Frankfurt to MRS. Regardless of the route, as long as you fly on one ticket, you should be able to get your luggage checked through to MRS.
Thanks Robert, Michael, and Harold!
The Delta/Air France pool flights to Paris connecting to Marseille generally cost not much more than the trans-Atlantic flight alone. If you don't make the connecting flight in time, there will be another within an hour or two. Ditto for your luggage (I learned that the hard way.) Just don't choose the final Paris-Marseille flight of the day.
Clearing the immigration passport check on arrival at CDG is just the start. After passport control, you will need to be re-screened. Having carry on bags can slow you down if you have electronics and a bunch of extra batteries and various cables. At least you can keep your shoes on. After clearing security you may have a trek to your connecting terminal. Here is where a Steve's carry-on backpack can be faster than dragging a wheele case.