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Is Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Oliver Gee · 17 Mar 2015, 10:46

Published: 17 Mar 2015 10:46 GMT+01:00

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A new ranking of the world's best airports has seen Paris's Charles De Gaulle (CDG) placed well down the list in 48th position at the 2015 World Airport Awards held by airline consultancy Skytrax in Paris. 
While squeezing inside the top 50 might not seem like anything to crow about, the move marked a dramatic improvement from last year's result of 95th.
"It's proof that our policy of favouring the quality of service is bearing fruits," said CDG airport chiefs.
CDG's score was enough to finish 16th of all European airports, a list which was topped by Munich for the second year in a row. 

(Photo: Bradley Wells/Flickr)
Top ten internationally (last year's result in brackets)
1. Singapore Changi (1)
2. Incheon Intl Airport (2) South Korea
3. Munich Airport (3)
4. Hong Kong Intl (4)
5. Tokyo Intl Haneda (6)
6. Zurich Airport (8)
7. Central Japan Intl (12)
8. London Heathrow (10)
9. Amsterdam Schiphol (5)
10. Beijing Capital (7)
But why does the biggest airport in France have such a bad reputation?
The airport usually ranks exceptionally poorly. In 2009 it was rated the second worst in the world by frequent fliers after London's Heathrow, and in 2011 CNN's travel site judged it "the most hated airport in the world".
We took a look online at some of the reviews from airlinequality.com to find out the truth from regular passengers. Here are some excerpts:
B Cohen from the US called CDG an "abysmal excuse for an airport" in his one-star (out of ten!) review from November last year. 
"Be prepared to miss your flight, because that is the likely outcome of the complete and utter inefficiency and disorganization. Be prepared to have no one care whatsoever about your plight," he wrote.

(Photo: Aaron Gustafson/Flickr)
Many of the other reviews mentioned the uncommunicative or rude staff, the long distances between terminals, and the pricey food. 
J Kingston said in August last year that the worst of all was the RER train connection in to the city, which he warned "has notoriously belligerent unions running the show".
"You cannot have a world class airport with third world transport to the city centre. One simply grits one's teeth," he added.
In the same month, M Byrne from Australia was zero out of ten impressed, wondering if terminal 2D could be the "worst airport terminal in Europe".
"Crowded, dirty, terrible shops, no catering, and the only lounge is airside, meaning that you have to leave the (admittedly poor) lounge one hour before the flight departs. This terminal requires immediate demolition!"
User "D All" from Australia was also unimpressed, in a rather poetic way. 
"Leaving from terminal 2 was fine. Leaving from Terminal 1 was a shamozzle. It was as though they didn't expect 10,000 people that morning."

(Photo: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr)
Story continues below…
Lastly, and perhaps most worryingly, David Beggs from the UK said the experience was enough to keep him away from the city. 
"Certainly unlikely to bother visiting Paris again as not worth the unpleasant experience of the airport," he wrote in July. 
While we could scan through entertaining zero-star reviews all day, it's only fair to note that there are also a handful of extremely positive reviews. 
There were eight 10/10 reviews (compared with 43 that scored 0/10) on the site, praising everything from the "attractive" lounge and shopping area, the "elegantly modern" toilets, and the "seamless" airport services.
It’s worth noting also that the Skytrax rankings did have some positive news for Charles de Gaulle. It was ranked in the top five airports in the world for the category of shopping and in the top ten for services.
And Hall M in Terminal 2 was ranked sixth best terminal in the world.
A separate survey at the end of 2014 revealed 89 percent of airport users were satisfied with their experience. The airport has been making efforts to improve the quality of service in recent years with former CEO Pierre Graff declaring in 2010 that it was the number one priority after being inundated with complaints from passengers.
With over 62 million passengers a year and almost 500,000 aircraft movements, here's hoping the airport will continue to improve. 
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