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Heather’s Air France Bus Rant

Hate is a mighty strong word. But it’s the only clean one I could use on this rant. I hate the Air France Bus.

A month has almost passed since the incident, but I can still feel my blood pressure rising when I think about it.  I’ve been in France for 13 years. I’m a patient gal. But sometimes I just can’t bear to accept bad service without saying something about it. I promise to be constructive in my criticism, stick to the facts, and offer alternatives. (Deep breath…)

There are several ways of getting between Paris and Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) Airport, including taxis, RER train, airport shuttles, the Roissy Bus and the Air France Bus (I mention the cheapest way to do it in my October newsletter). When I’ve got too much baggage to haul in the RER, I usually take a taxi (or the city bus) to the nearest Air France Bus pick-up spot. The taxi is about €8, the bus another €15 (one way). The Air France Bus supposedly comes every 30 minutes. I figure I’ll allow 45-60 minutes, just in case.

So I arrive at the bus stop at 11:10am. My flight to the US is at 3pm. I figure I need to be there by 1pm to have time for security and to eat something (I’d been madly packing all morning and didn’t eat…bad start). The drive is usually 45-60 minutes long. The weather is cool bus dry and sunny. At 11:45am, a bus pulls up. “No, this is only to drop off,” says the luggage handler. “Another one is coming in 15 minutes.” “But I’ve been here 40 minutes already,” I say. “You must have just missed the other bus. Don’t worry, another is coming.” So I wait.

At 12:15 another bus pulls up. It’s also “just dropping off” and some of the people waiting with me decide to get in a taxi so they don’t miss their flight. The luggage handler is on his cell phone and tells me another one just left Montparnasse (about 15 minutes away) and will be here any moment.

At 12:30, TWO half-full busses pull up at the same time and they are BOTH just dropping off passengers. No one seems to think it might be a good idea to put all of the people on one bus and let the other one take us to the airport. By now, the sky has clouded over and it is drizzling. I’m getting chilly, and am still starving. There is only one bench at the bus stop, with elderly people huddled on it. Two chain smokers are also huddled under the bus shelter with us. Lovely. At this point, I’m trying to figure out my options. I’d have to go to a cash machine if I hail a taxi. I’d have to risk traffic if I go all the way to the Roissy Bus across town.

After the 6th bus passes without picking anyone up, the luggage handler explains there was a bottleneck at the airport, lots of traffic into Paris. “But the roads are clear to Roissy, you’ll be fine.” As if I’m going to believe anything he says at this point.

At 12:55 a bus finally picks us up. We still have to pay €15 of course. And I know I shouldn’t — I KNOW it won’t get me any sympathy — but I can’t help but say to the driver as he’s making change, “I’ve been standing here freezing for an hour and 45 minutes.” I get a defensive, incredulous look and he replies, “Well I’ve been here since 6am.” No point in pointing out that HE is in a heated bus, sitting down, and getting PAID, and NOT trying to catch a flight. I grab my change with a low growl and take my seat.

I arrive at the airport at 2pm, luckily I had already checked-in online, and there was hardly a line at security, so I breezed through and made it to the gate five minutes before boarding.

On the way home, I took the Roissy Bus, which is €8.90, and drops off behind the Opéra about an hour later. I could taxi from there, but it just happens to be on bus line 27, which drops me right in front of my apartment anyway, so I take the city bus with my metro/bus pass, and arrive home 15 minutes later.

Aside from the price, the Roissy Bus also does something very logical and user-friendly which cannot be underestimated in the winter: there is always a bus waiting at the Opera or the airport. When another bus pulls up, it drives away (usually 15-20 minutes between busses). So you’re never standing outside waiting for one, you’re sitting on the warm and dry bus.

So hooray for the RossyBus (a municipal bus, I might add), and boo to the Air France Bus. You’ll never see me on one of those again. Hmph.



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