It is now almost noon on Tuesday and I'm sitting in the Air France lounge at CDG with a cappuccino, trying to cool down and relax before my 3 pm flight to Berlin.
It was a mess this morning. First of all, it's April 26th and the airport is very crowded - I imagine it will get worse as the summer goes on. Second, if you aren't familiar with CDG, it will be very frustrating trying to figure out where to go because there just is not enough signage. I haven't been to CDG in over 20 years, and I was totally lost at times. And it wasn't just me - most of the other passengers were clueless about where to go and there wasn't much help.
The beginning was okay - we got off the plane at Gate M48 in Terminal 2E around 8:30 am and started heading for the 2F signs. After about 7-8 minutes of walking, we got on a train that took us to 2F, where we got off. First we went to passport control, which went relatively quickly. You just show your passport and boarding pass and then pass through.
That's when it got more frustrating. There were no signs for Terminal F - only signs for Baggage and Sortie (exit). We went in one direction, which turned out to be wrong, then got turned in the right direction. We finally got through this chaos and found signs for 2F again. At first it looks like you are boarding a bus (based on the signage) but you pass that and wind up in HUGE lines to have your luggage checked. That took forever. I felt very sorry for the people near me who had imminent connections as they were frantic, and no one was really helping them. They had one person for each line to inspect the luggage and some of them were very slow. After that, we were done - I got to the lounge around 9:50 am and the others may or may not have caught their flights. The above process took about an hour and 15-20 minutes. And I was in Premier Select, so I vacated the plane fairly early. If you're sitting in the back, add another 5-10 minutes.
If you have a transfer here (at least during high season) that is under 1 and 1/2 hours, I would strongly suggest these things.
- Look at the CDG map of Terminal E and F a LOT before you go so that you are familiar with it. It looks much smaller than it really is. There is a lot of walking.
- Limit your carry on items if you can. You will have to put all your bags on a conveyer for them to be inspected and remove the liquids and electronics. It's a lot easier with less bags and you can walk a lot faster, too. Which brings me to no. 3...
- Walk fast from the beginning - assume that you will need every minute of time available to get through.
- Make sure your 3-1-1 items are in a clear quart-size bag. I had mine in a Tom Bihn clear toiletries bag (you can see through both sides) but they made me take everything out and put it in a quart-size ziplock bag that she gave me.
I'll be honest, if I was booking a flight from April through October, I would not book anything that had a connection at CDG that is under 90 minutes and preferably 2 hours.