Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris, may be known for its state-of-the-art-architecture but, sadly, falls very short in taking into account the needs of its reduced mobility passengers.
The airport stretches out to you like a crafty octopus, its unfriendly tentacles luring you in one direction only to leave you helplessly dangling from another.
For example, be prepared for a very long walk to your dedicated departure gate, which can sometimes also encompass changes in floor levels, moving walkways and airside shuttles – a veritable nightmare for wheelchair users, the challenges of which seem to have been unhappily overlooked during the airport’s expensive renovation, which began in 2004.
I found it to be one of the most demanding airports I have ever found myself using and, in addition, to add insult to injury, any query you may have is generally met with either complete indifference or total incompetence by the ground staff – assuming you can find one to ask, that is. I also found the disabled facilities to be quite difficult to source.
An example: several years ago, when travelling to Australia, I almost missed my onward flight as I had been horribly misinformed about the distance to my connecting gate. My return journey was even worse. I was unceremoniously ‘dumped’ at the curb – at 5am and in the middle of a cold and miserable February – and left to wait for the connecting shuttle bus to take me to my departure terminal. Why I couldn’t have been transported directly there is anybody’s guess.
My experiences with this airport were so bad that I am now prepared to travel an extra few hours just to avoid it; I would suggest you do the same, if at all possible. If you are unable to do so, make sure you advise your airline or travel agent about your requirements at least 48 hours before your journey, in the hope that somebody, somewhere will make note of it and, on arrival at the airport, immediately try to find a customer assistance booth to alert them to your presence. Failing that, if at all possible, go directly to your airline check-in counter.
Bon chance (good luck) – you are going to need it!
About the author:
Sandy Walker worked in the airline industry for 25 years as ticket agent and supervisor until diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, resulting in a career change to freelance travel writer. Born in London, she now resides in Tuscany.