A Day in Airports


Stormy Over Montréal

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!

Arriv­ing in Montréal

Arriv­ing in Montréal

Stormy Over Montréal


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I remem­bered con­nect­ing flights from Mobile to Atlanta and to NYC to catch a direct flight back to Spore. How­ever, the flight from Atlanta was delayed for an hour so it was fran­tic rush upon touch­ing down at NYC. I remem­bered my two daugh­ters were younger and we lit­er­ally ran like in amaz­ing race, so funny now just to think about it.

    You are right, I don’t under­stand trav­ellers are still so naïve bring­ing in stuff that are pro­hib­ited. I wouldn’t dare putting my nail cut­ter in my hand car­riage too.

    Nice shots there Zhu 😀

  2. Air­planes! Air­ports! My favorite topic!

    Any­way, you’re right that there are times when I start to won­der where these trav­el­ers have been hid­ing, that they don’t know they can’t bring knives, wine bot­tles, and such in the flight.

    And I like the point you make about long lines: I only have long lines in immi­gra­tion when I enter the USA, though I have to say, I had two excep­tions: enter­ing Miami from Ecuador in 2007, and enter­ing Dal­las from Guatemala ear­lier this year. There weren’t any lines, I just had to walk up to the guy. I did a dou­ble take and made sure I landed in the USA!

    Finally, Roissy isn’t my favorite air­port either. I con­nected there from Budapest in 2008, it was hot, not air-conditioned in the mid­dle of sum­mer, and the walk from 2B to 2A was rather con­fus­ing. But, I have to say, the duty-free shops were extensive!

    • Roissy is awful, I try to avoid it as much as I can. It was a great air­port… in the 1960s. Now it’s old and falling apart, not to men­tion it’s a maze. Even for me get­ting from one point to another is con­fus­ing, and I must have been there over 20 times!

  3. Hi Zhu,
    Wel­come home!
    Just another nor­mal day at work; peo­ple want­ing to bring in booze and knives onboard… Thanks a lot!
    You are remind­ing me of some things. D & I have flights in two months. We have to go through all that air­port stuff again, too…

    Have a nice day.

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