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AIRPORT

French airports trail in world rankings yet again – but are they really so bad?

French airports have once again scored badly on world rankings, with the country's 'best' airport - Toulouse- only managing 89th place on the list.

French airports trail in world rankings yet again - but are they really so bad?
Travellers at French airports are fed up. Photo: AFP

Other major French airports trailed behind, with Paris faring worst of all as its airports scored low in all categories with Charles de Gaulle at 121st and Orly at 126th.

The rankings come from Air Help's annual list of the world's best airports, and terminals are scored on punctuality of flights, the quality of service and the shops and restaurants on offer.

READ ALSO: Why is the food in French airports still so bad?


Delays and cancellations have been a particular problem at French airports. Photo: AFP

All of France's airports were badly hit by delays last year after a series of strikes by pilots at Air France, as well as industrial action by French air traffic controllers which saw hundreds of flights delayed and cancelled.

According to the Air Help ranking, the best airport in France was Toulouse at 89th place, followed by Bordeaux in 100th place. Lyon came next at 121st, followed by Charles de Gaulle at 121 and Orly at 126.

British airports fared slightly better with Heathrow at 73 and Stanstead at 109, while in the US Denver and Orlando airports scored highly at 52 and 57 respectively.

The world's best airport was listed as Hamad International Airport in Qatar, followed by Tokyo International and Athens International airports.

But just what is it the makes travellers so very unhappy with French airports?

Charles de Gaulle, France's biggest airport, consistently struggles with customer satisfaction and in 2011 was judged 'the most hated airport in the world' by CNN's travel report.

A particularly sprawling site, the long distances between gates and terminals is a particular bugbear for travellers. The airport currently has a three out of 10 satisfaction rating among people who left reviews on Skytrax.

G Allen from Singapore described the airport as “overcrowded, not enough staff, not enough food places or bathrooms, bad signage”.

He posted: “At the departures I was looking for hall 4, I entered in front of hall 2, so I thought that following the circular shape I will eventually reach 4.

“I was wrong. I went around and after a longer walk through crowds and queues that went out of control, I reached hall 3, and then hall 2 again! I went to the outer circle, and I saw hall 4 sign, with an arrow pointing down. I also saw hall 5 and 6 pointing down.

“So I took an elevator to go downstairs, but downstairs there was only 5 and 6. So I went back up, and went around again, and found hall 4.

“There were only two employees at the desks, it took forever because with any non-standard situation (like somebody having bigger bag) it took them so many calls, consultation with colleagues etc. that I was waiting there for about 40 min.”

But there were people who had a more positive experience – C Vincent from Dublin described the airport as “huge, clean, staff very friendly. Clean toilets. Very good connection with Paris via RER B train.”

French vocab

Departures – départs

Boarding card – carte d'embarquement

Hand luggage – baggage a main

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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