How Air France & Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Gave Me Quite A Shock

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Thanks to the purser on my flight from Madrid I had a very good idea of where I had to go once I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle but, after I had disembarked off the short-haul flight, I still stopped by the first set of information screens to confirm what gate my New York bound flight would be departing from.

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This is where Air France/Charles de Gaulle airport managed to give me a rather unpleasant surprise.

The best way to explain exactly what I saw is to break it down bit by bit.

This was the current time as shown by the airport information screen:

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This was my New York flight number and flight time as shown by the same airport information screen:

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(so I was still 1 hour and 25 minutes away from departure)

And this is what the information screen was showing as the status of my flight:

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Now, no matter how often you fly and how much the rational part of your brain tells you that what you’re seeing on the screen cannot possibly be true, when you see the words “boarding closed” next to a flight you’re meant to be on you do not go to a happy place in your mind!

I told myself that this had to be a mistake…but there wasn’t an Air France or airport information desk anywhere that I could see. In this part of the airport there didn’t seem to be anywhere to to check what was going on.

I took a look at my boarding pass just to make sure I wasn’t going mad…..

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….and it confirmed that boarding wasn’t due to start for another 30 minutes.

Aaaaarrrggghhhh! (that’s probably the best way to sum up my thoughts at that point in time!)

Because I was continuing on to a transatlantic flight I still had to clear passport control and, while in reality that didn’t take very long at all, to my mind it seemed to take forever. There was only one immigration officer on duty and I can’t say that this improved my mood 🙂

Eventually I had my passport checked, I passed through to the international departures area and I followed the signs to the Air France lounge in Terminal 2E (airline lounges are almost always the best place to head to if you have an issue with your flight as the agents there often have a bit more latitude to help out).

Soon I was standing at the reception desk of the Air France lounge in Terminal 2E and asking an agent if he could check the status of my flight.

Unsurprisingly it turned out that the airport information boards were wrong (yes, all of them – this wasn’t just an error on a single board) and boarding hadn’t even started.What was surprising was that no one else had apparently noticed – the agent quickly made an announcement in the lounge to tell passengers that the boards were displaying incorrect information.

What was even more surprising was what the agent said next.

According to the Air France agent the technology at CDG is so old and out of date that once a mistake goes up on the boards there isn’t anything anyone can do to correct it. They have to make do with tannoy announcements.

I find this pretty hard to believe as it would mean that gate changes (which must happen hundreds of times a day) would never be communicated on the information boards and that would cause chaos.

But that’s exactly what I was told.

Still, the agent was very polite and apologetic and, apart from nearly giving me a heart attack, there was no real damage done 🙂

This wasn’t exactly the most relaxing start to my Air France international Business Class experience and, because of the late arrival of my flight from Madrid, I didn’t even have much time to relax in (or photograph) the Air France lounge in Terminal 2E – that will have to wait for another day.

Moral to the story: If you know that something that an airport information screen is telling you cannot possibly be true then trust your instincts and don’t get too worried. After the initial shock of seeing “boarding closed” on the airport screen I calmed down pretty quickly (what’s the worse that could happen) but it’s still not an experience I’d wish on anyone I like.

Next Up: Review: Air France 777-300ER Business Class (CDG-JFK)

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