Whilst here in the UK our airports are finding it difficult to build runways and expand as hub airports…less than an hours flying time away it is a rather different story.
Over 20 years ago Paris Charles de Gaulle airport embarked on turning itself into a major hub and last week celebrated that fact.
Invitations went out to over a 100 international travel writers and bloggers who flew into the airport from a selection of destinations that this hub airport services around the world.
Boasting not two or three but four runways the airport bosses have room to expand and they are doing so. For instance a cavernous lower ground floor area that has remained empty for over ten years has reached the stage where it can be brought into use as the airport passenger growth figures have reached a critical point to trigger yet further investment.
A huge brand new automated baggage handling system is being constructed in this massive 400 metre long space deep under the existing buildings. At the moment they are handling 100,000 bags per day!
This already built-in cathedral like space is an example of pre-planning on a major scale and only goes to show that we are playing catch up regarding our ability here in the UK to really establish a viable newer hub airport.
The operators of the airport are Groupe ADP and they plan to spend around €4.6bn in the next 3 years. It is the busiest airport in France and is currently handling 65.8M passengers a year. Heathrow are 10 million in front at the moment but for how long bearing in mind it’s operating at nearly full capacity.
Air France KLM their national airline flies to 320 destinations in over 114 countries from Charles de Gaulle.
Their claim is that being able to make efficient connections to a whole host of destinations worldwide is what makes the difference for them. Connecting between terminals is either by walking or the every 4 minutes shuttle train that runs from their main terminal complex to the two other more remote terminals. The shuttle journey time is just a few minutes in both cases.
Something that certainly needs to be addressed at Heathrow, where one evening it took me over 20 minutes to get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2 and 3.
The one thing I do have a problem with is the naming of the terminals it starts with Terminals 2E and 2F then they mention gates K,L and M. I think just call them terminals 1,2,3 and 4 that to me makes more sense.
However there are some fantastically nice touches around the airport. Like ‘Instant Paris’ a transfer lounge and there is no charge here and right at the heart of the airport’s international zone.
This is themed area and is open to all is styled like a Parisian hotel with high-end furnishings. Stylish seating areas, a library and large work station also giant TVs to catch up with sports or events like Paris fashion week. Your chance to experience a little of Paris even if you do not make it out of the airport.
The large press conference was followed by tours of the airport where Air France and Groupe ADP were keen to show what they had been doing these last 20 years.
Personally I am disappointed with the progress that our UK airports have made over that same period. Our politicians only needed to look over the horizon to France to see how they appear to be getting ahead of the game whilst we are still firmly in the changing rooms wondering where we left our boots! In fact not one runway has been built over that time and is unlikely to be built in the next ten.
Happy birthday Paris CDG!