Transport Airports

Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport Turns 40 Years Old, Prepares for Life After Middle Age

Mar 12, 2014 11:02 am

Skift Take

Paris-Charles de Gaulle isn’t as bad as New York’s airports, but it should look to Heathrow and Frankfurt’s upgrades, as well as Asian hubs, for clues about what to do next.

— Jason Clampet

Sponsored by:

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry


TWA’ New York-JFK to Paris-CDG flight was the first to land at the airport.

Aerial view of Paris-CDG.

Paris-CDG’s green uniformed hostesses.

Paris-CDG’s green uniformed hostesses.

Paris-CDG’s tubes connect gates and levels.

Charles-de-Gaulle Airport keeps busy as Europe’s second largest airport, moving 62 million passengers in 2013, but as it celebrates 40 it is poised to further enhance its image and accommodate even more growth.

The proposal to develop Charles-de-Gaulle, and the selection of the site 25 km north-east of Paris originally began in 1964, with construction on Terminal 1 starting in 1968. It was inaugurated on March 8, 1974, by then Prime Minister Pierre Messmer, and opened for business on March 13 with the much celebrated arrival of a TWA Boeing 747 from New York. The original circular terminal, considered at the very edge of the avant-garde at the time, was designed by architect Paul Andreu, with capacity to host 10 million passengers.

Over the years, it has added the equally iconic Terminal 2, with its first two undulating modules opening in 1982. It has celebrated a number of key milestones since then, establishing the smaller Terminal three for charter and low-cost flights in 1991, adding 2E as a dedicated terminal for Air France and Skyteam in 2003, and the additional introductions of Terminal 2G, Lobby K, Hall L, and Hall M, in 2008 and 2012.

This January, it shared its future vision of incorporating the door-to-door passenger experience recommended by key aviation design firms, with the announcement by Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier of a restart for the CDG Express project, which will provide direct rail link between the City of Lights and the airport.

As it turns 40, Charles-de-Gaulle, can celebrate with 80 million candles, one for every passenger in its present capacity, which represents 70% growth compared to 2006. A spokesperson for Paris Airports tells us Charles-de-Gaulle expects a “huge increase in capacity over the next 10 years,” with passenger numbers expected to double over the next twenty years. Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle has already begun plans to develop Terminal 4, in order to accommodate this significant additional demand, and they intend to keep their lead among Europe’s Airports.

With present Visa restrictions at Heathrow, and passenger growth originating from a number of countries which would benefit from the versatility of Schengen Agreement connections, Paris in the second spot, Frankfurt in the third, and Amsterdam a close fourth will contend with other European airports which intend to expand their services; in what will certainly prove to be an exciting competition for the number one spot.

In anticipation of that competition, and in order to ensure the greatest mutual benefit of future traffic from Asian Markets, Aéroports de Paris, and Schiphol Group renewed their cooperation with Incheon International Airport this January, by signing a new strategic partnership. The partnership involves an “exchange of good practices” in the areas of “aeronautical activities, airport retail, cargo and human resources.”

This present agreement signed on January 20 will be in effect for the next four years. Key team members of all three airport companies will continue the cooperation they began in meetings held in Paris, Amsterdam and Seoul, over the past three years, and discuss the challenges of their Airport City concept, and the needs of international passengers.

For its part, Charles-de-Gaulle intends to celebrate it’s gorgeous 40th by hosting a series of special events, which it is being very coy about and will announce this Friday.

Tags: ,

Follow @jasonclampet

Next Up

More on Skift

Hotels Need to Rework Loyalty Programs to Capture Millennials
Are New Passport Control Kiosks In Orlando Reducing Wait Times?
Interview: Brand USA CEO on the Next Phase of Marketing America Abroad
Spending On Leisure Travel Is Best Use Of Points Earned During Business Travel