We will be flying into CDG from ORD on American, changing to Swiss and flying onto Zurich. We have 2.5 hrs between flights. This is in the week prior to Christmas. Am I facing a nightmare? I've been reading reviews and the airport seems horrible! Nothing I can do-flights are booked, but just wondering to prepare myself.
Swiss has six non-stop flights between CDG and Zurich per day. If you miss your first there's a good chance they will find room for you on a later flight. Are your American/Swiss flights part of the same ticket or did you purchase separately? Since they are not part of the same alliance I suspect the latter. If true you should have allowed more time between flights. While technically Swiss don't have to put you on a later flight, the legacy carriers like Swiss are more flexible as opposed to the discount airlines.
It was all booked on one ticket through American Airlines.
If it's all on the same ticket, don't sweat it. One way or another they will get you to Zurich:)
Be aware that you will need to change terminals. American uses Terminal 2A. Swissair uses Terminal 1.
Would being close to the front of the plane make any difference when arriving?
This website has great information including the ability to get detailed instructions on how to get from your arrival to departure gates:
We just returned from CDG on June 10. You should have enough time. Mind you we were flying business class with Air Tahiti Nui back to Calif. We had priority check-in. The whole check-in procedure there really stinks. The check-in associate couldn't get the carry-ons properly tagged. Then he weighed the carry on's separately and tagged them wrong.. Then he weighed weighed the regular check-in luggage pieces. He kept asking my husband to put the luggage up on the belt and then he would have my husband take the luggage down. Unbelievable waste of time and our patience. Plus this was priority check-in mind you. They are outright inept and brain challenged. Our whole check-in was a mess. By the time we got on the plane, I was sicker than when we got to the airport. The stiffling air on the plane made me sicker. The French have a culture that my husband and I find is intolerable. Their bathrooms are few and far between and they are almost always dirty. We were entitled to use the business class lounge, but we were told three different locations. We walked all over the terminal and even downstairs. When we tried to do our VAT (tax refund option), that was another trying experience. The French do not believe in customer service, nor do they know what that is. CDG is terrible compared to Heathrow, which is bigger, but a lot better organized.
We just flew out of terminal one at CDG on July 4. Our check in went smoothly and quickly. The employees were all pleasant and very helpful.
However, we had followed the advice and got there almost four hours before our flight. Terminal one has almost no amenities. The only food available was a snack-bar with some breakfast items and pre-wrapped sandwiches. Out by the gates there was one duty-free shop which sold mainly liquor and perfume. The terminal has strange tubes going through it--it looks like some left-over from the NYC world's fair. I thought it needed major up-dating. While it was a very boring terminal, the service was efficient.
My best advice would be not to worry too much about it. While I hate CDG, I've never had any "real" problem ... I've always made my flights with just a little bit of stress.
Before you leave, double check the terminals for your arrival and departure. Familarize yourself with the logistics for switching terminals.
In terms of inadequate staffing and mass confusion, CDG is the worst airport I have ever flown out of. The first time, I thought it was just bad timing, but things were worse the second time. Of course, leaving Paris can be hell under the best of circumstances. Dante flew through CDG once and wrote a book about it. He noted that the sign above Terminal 2 says: Abandon all hope, ye who enter.
Elaine I've been reading your posts about your experiences with France and the French, how sad for you. Based on the excellent information you've supplied we have just cancelled our long planned trip to France.
Peter: don't cancel! France is worth it.
Flew thru CDG in May and June of this year. No problems. Nice folks as are all the folks we have encountered in our stays all over France, from Paris to Nice.
Can not wait to go back. And we fly Air France by choice.
Kent, I'm just being sarcastic. We wouldn't cancel for all the "freedom fries in the world" We're looking forward to the good and the not so good. If we wanted it like home we would stay at home.
Peter, i am guessing that you are joking about cancelling your trip based on Elaine's depressing reports. Nothing about Paris pleased her, (except Starbuck's and the Apple store!) and Mont St. Michel didn't please her, and the chateaux of the Loire didn't please her, the staff at CDG really pissed her off and Air Tahiti, or whichever it was, didn't please her, so are we seeing a pattern here? Bruges pleased her a little bit but not very much. Considering that, as she has reported, she spent a week in Paris last year, we are left to wonder why on earth she returned this year to such a hateful place. Can it be that last year Paris was wonderful and this year it is the pits?
Peter: Oh good. I was hoping you were just being sarcastic.
I have flown in and out of CDG numerous times, the first time in 1977, the last in 2005 either on Air France or United from Calif. No problems... except one time I thought getting the luggage took a pretty long time, ie, longer than normal; of course, I have had the same experience at least once at SFO. But, I've never had to change planes at CDG. I can't say anything about that experience. Why have I not gone back to CDG since 2005? Mainly because the flights to LHR and Frankfurt were cheaper than those going into CDG...that's why I took them.
I don't find CGD bad at all, if such a word can be applied. Heathrow does seem to be better organised...no problem there either. The restaurant facilities are better at LHR because that's fresh in my memory. As for communicating with les francais either in English or French (that's limited) in Paris or CDG, I don't have such a problem and definitely don't find them "rude," which some Americans assert.
Of course, there are WCs at CDG at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. You just have to know where they are...no problems.
I've never had a problem at CDG; I have flown there 3 times. I found the immigration point entering the country was one of the quickest, with most pleasant agents. There are a number of North American airports that are waaaaay more disorganized, poorly planned, with surly customs/immigration agents, IMHO. The airport is just part of the travel adventure.
OP here-thanks for all the replies. I feel better about going through there.
From Philly, we flew Air France into CDG and had to change planes for Rome about 3 years ago. We barely made it with alot of help from the Air France people, but our luggage did not make it. Be sure to put the address and phone # of where you are going in Zurich on a tag on the outside of the luggage. If you luggage is not in baggage claim in Zurich, go immediately to lost luggage for your airline and file a report. You will have to fill out a form of what your bags look like. I always carry a change of clothes in my carry on because of luggage not making the plane on other trips. My husband did not, and had to do some clothes shopping in Italy. Our bags did arrive late the next day at our hotel in Rome. Our bags flew Alitalia and my bag had been openned and my rain jacket was missing. Now I always put one of those TSA locks on my suitcase when traveling.
Actually we only carry on bags (Rick Steves' bags!) so baggage claim is never an issue.
I found everyone at CDG really helpful. We were flying back to LAX from Nice and had to change planes. We flew with Air France and and had just over an hour to make our flight. The staff was very helpful and we got to our gate with time to spare.
Just for the record, we breezed through CDG last year on our flight home. Helpful people, polite,organized. It was as easy as anything, and we ended up with lots of time to spare. So we burned up Euros shopping. Hmmm...
It would be helpful if when commenting on CDG you mentioned which terminal you experienced. I suspect that the amenities vary widely, depending on which terminal you used. A traveler would have a hard time burning up euros in terminal one unless you owned a perfume store!
I’m not quite ready to bash tiny Air Tahiti Nui just yet since I know virtually nothing about this airline, but how does their poor service (if accurate) at the check-in counter at CDG translate into intolerable French culture overall? Wait a minute…isn’t Elaine the same person who wanted to send folks smoking in their own country to the guillotine? Perhaps one should just stay in Orange County from now on, where everything’s just like it should be…just like the good old days. Nobody fusses. Everything’s normal there.
Angela: I’m sure you’ll like Swiss…excellent airline. Also, ZRH is very modern, small, and quite easy to manage. Have a great trip!
CDG is doable. If you are a city person, it's just a big-city airport. People are helpful. (Bring walking shoes). Zurich airport is much better, of course. It is small and the Swiss are so orderly and business-like. You can get a suit cleaned there, even, and I saw a priest giving Mass in a chapel at the airport there.
Plus, you will be in Paris, and that will be just wonderful. And folks will be full of the Christmas spirit. Bon voyage, cherie.
In many trips, I learned long ago to not assume that an [Airport, Airline, Hotel, etc] is bad. Occurences seem to be random and much more affected by the people (both staff and passengers/guests) than the inaminate object of scorn.
As for CDG, even in the midst of construction, all of my experiences have been hassle-free, even a case of the Air France staff going "above and beyond" my expectations.
Be flexible, courteous, and do not give cause to be part of the problem, and you will be fine.
Awesome responses! Thank you all so much. I think it tends to be more the unhappy are usually more vocal.
We've learned the hard way to avoid CDG. We fly to London, usually spend the arrival day and night there, then take an early Eurostar into central Paris. A cheaper flight into say Zurich or Frankfort then a pleasant train ride to Paris works as well. At CDG and all of France actually, learning a few key phrases in French, being polite, not demanding, and a big smile will go a long ways towards making service employees want to help you.