A Day in Airports
I arrived in Ottawa last night, after three weeks in France. I think it’s my ninth or tenth transatlantic flight—a routine trip now.
Instead of taking the train to Paris and then a direct flight from Roissy CDG, this trip, I decided to fly from Nantes to CDG, and then from CDG to Montréal. It’s easier and it’s about the same price as taking the train these days.
Nantes Atlantique Airport was small (is that why the mayor wants to build a new humongous airport?) and boring but for the people.
The line-up to go through security was interesting, though. Most travelers were flying short and medium haul flights to either other parts of France or sunny destinations like Morocco, Tunisia or Turkey. And each and every one of them had some banned items in their hand luggage! I’m not talking about the odd tube of cream, but bottles of booze, knives, tons of food etc. And they seemed to be completely oblivious of the much-publicized security measures.
It basically went like that for the time I was stuck in the line-up:
(Airport security employee scans bags and pulls them aside.)
“I’m sorry sir, you seem to carry items that are on the prohibited list. May I search your bags?”
“What? What’s prohibited?”
“Well, on the screen, I saw something that looks like a knife…”
“Yeah, it’s my knife. Can’t I take my knife with me?”
“… No sir.”
“Oh great. Now I have to call my wife to see if she can come back and take my knife back home.”
“There also seem to be bottles in your bag.”
(The security guy holds the bag, and you can actually hear glass bottles clinking in there.)
“Well, you can’t take liquids beyond this point.”
“But how do I bring my wine?”
Etc. And most passengers had booze with them (and that was before the duty-free shops!). It was actually funny to witness. I know that security checks are a pain and I’m not sure they help much, but come on guys, there were implemented ten years ago now—don’t you have a clue that bringing a knife with you is slightly frown upon?
With such attitude, it took forever for all the passengers to board and I was getting nervous because I only had an hour to transfer in Paris.
By the time we landed at Roissy CDG, I only had 45 minutes left to transfer but I wasn’t panicking because I simply had to go from Terminal 2F to Terminal 2E. I started walking as fast as I could, keeping an eye on the signs. Eventually, after a five-minute walk, I bumped into passport control—or rather a huge line-up to passport control.
Crap. I had forgotten I had to go through passport control.
Some loud Americans behind me started complaining about French inefficiency. I found it funny: I’m the first one to admit French can be extremely slow and inefficient but hey, guys, who came up (and keeps on coming up) with strict security processes? Not to mention that most time, when I go to the U.S., I face even longer line-ups at security checks. So kindly give me a break.
Their group tried to jump the queue but an officer assured them it was only going to take ten minutes to have their passport stamped, and that they would be able to catch their flight.
Twenty minutes later, as I walked out with my passport stamped, I was getting nervous as well. It was well past my boarding time—in fact, my flight was leaving in twenty minutes.
Eventually, I found Terminal 2E and the long line-up to security check. Again.
This time, I asked one of the employees if I could jump the queue.
“No flight leaves in twenty minutes,” she replied curtly.
“Yes, mine does. The AF344 to Montréal? Look, I don’t mind queuing as long as the plane waits for me,” I pleaded.
“Your flight leaves in twenty two minutes, which gives you enough time to go through security.”
Bitch. Moral of the story, unlike in most airport, don’t expect to be able to jump the queue to catch your connection in Paris.
I ran to the boarding gate and barely made it for the final call.
Luckily, I was flying the beautiful Airbus A380, the huge double-decker aircraft and it took a long time for all the passengers (over 500 of them) to board so it was a bit late.
This aircraft is awesome. It’s my second time flying it (first time was in 2011, from Sydney to L.A.) and it has lots of room (even in second class!), good food, a great entertainment system… It’s a very quiet plane too, and it doesn’t feel cramped despite its size.
I spent seven hours watching moving and gazing at the clouds, and it went by relatively fast.
When we arrived in Montréal, we faced a massive line-up to go through immigration: I queued for close to 90 minutes, there had to be at least 200 people in front of me. I wonder why there weren’t more employees working—I mean, considering the size of the A380, it’s common-sense that all the passengers are going to go through immigration control.
Anyway, I’m now in Ottawa. It’s mid-April and it feels like I’ve been traveling since the beginning of the year. Time to… do stuff!