A Day in Airports

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Stormy Over Montreal

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 Montreal. 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 Montreal? 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 Montreal, 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 Montreal

Arriving in Montreal

Stormy Over Montreal


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 naive 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.

  4. I admit it happened to me once, I totally forgot I had a huge pack of passion fruit jam in my backpack… I almost cried when the security guy threw it away. I still can’t talk about it without a certain emotion 😀
    Also, those views of Montréal definetely make me sad. Still miss the city…
    Welcome home, though! Enjoy the spring!

    • Oh, I get lighters and these small bottles or hand-wash through security all the time! Funny enough, the only time I was stopped and searched was in Montreal because I had forgotten an old tube of lipstick in my bag!

    • I’m not sure it would be worth applying for, I don’t go through Montreal that much. But yeah, the line-up can be long… I’ve never waited that much though, especially in the afternoon on a weekday!

  5. Oh wow, an A380! I dream of getting in one of them some day. The longest immigration queue I’ve been in was in 2006, out of Cochin. We queued for about 3 hours I think, because people kept jumping the line. Eventually all of us left there were all headed on the same flight.

    Last year in Delhi, I hit long queues at immigration as well. We have this form to fill up before reaching immigration. I filled the form and stood in line for half an hour when I realized I put my new signature on the form. So, I had to get out, get a new form from my check-in counter and queue up for another 45 minutes. Bah. 🙂

    • I think the longest line-ups I have been in were in the U.S. Last time, in LA, it took us over two hours to get through immigration–it was ridiculous.

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