Friday, March 04, 2005

Charles de Gross Airport

This post is a little out of sequence, but I just couldn't get lost in all the joys of Beijing without sharing the hell that was the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I kept saying the entire time, "this IS an INTERNATIONAL airport, right?" It was the living breathing embodiment of an airport run by the keystone cops. Or a little car full of clowns. Or an office full of chimps. I don't know. All I know is that it was hell on earth.

Our plane landed late. Everyone went to the exit. Exit did not open. Airport did not provide a stairway for us to walk down to get on the buses to the terminal. So we waited about 40 minutes for them to get a walkway. Meanwhile, three people near me have missed connecting flights.

We finally escaped the plane and ran to the buses, foolishly thinking that our ordeal was over. But alas, it was just beginning. The bus drove for about 5 minutes to the back of a terminal, stopped, and then just sat there for 35 minutes. People were getting angry, demanding to get off the bus, demanding a reason why we were being kept in the bus, lamenting their numerous now-missed flights. The bus was starting to smell and get hot, we're all standing, so some of us were getting a little woozy from the odor and the heat. The doors opened for a moment and one guy jumped out, only to be forcibly put back on the bus by a gendarme. So now we were REALLY wondering what is going on.

Finally, as inexplicably as it began, it ended. The doors opened, we all jumped out, only to find that none of the terminal doors was unlocked. So there we are, hundreds of disgruntled passengers standing in the middle of an airport road, trying to figure out en masse how we get inside. Finally, someone opens a door across the street, and we all run inside to demand an explanation, which of course no one has.

To this day, we have no idea how or why that happened, and neither does Air France, but it is pretty shocking from a basic customer service, not to mention security standpoint. How were entire buses of people just unloaded at the back end of terminals and then let in a door by a worker? How did an airport driver get the authority to keep hundreds of people stranded on a bus while offering zero explanation?

All I know is that we have a 2 hour layover on our trip home, and I am pretty certain that we are going to miss the connection, if the trip here was any indication of Situation Normal at Charles de Gaulle. And hear me now and believe me later: if anything even remotely as ludicrous occurs while I am trying to keep my new daughter from melting down on a 21 hour trip home, I will make it someone's problem in a big, big way.

Another post regarding the "gross" part of the Charles de Gross title will follow when I can work up the courage to share with you that I peed on my pants a little bit while in the "luxury" Air France lounge during my layover. There! That oughta keep you checking back!

Till next time, mes amis, au revoir! Zai jian!

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