Snow is falling… You won’t fly tonight!

While Paris hasn’t come out of the greyness since the beginning of autumn, here is that snowfalls fall on the whole France and on the Paris region in particular. Yes, hold on to your hat:it’s winter and it’s snowing. And when it snows, in France, nothing works properly. Will you be able to leave? Nothing is less certain: an overview of the situation.

It is first necessary to arrive at the airport

For those who live in the Paris area, this is not a trivial matter. For the snowy situation at the beginning of February 2018, all bus transportation in Île-de-France was interrupted, rail transportation was severely disrupted (numerous cancellations and reduced frequencies), and individual car transportation (or taxis/Ubers) was very slowed down due to road conditions.

Unacceptable waiting time for a ride… It’ s better not to be in a hurry!

The long-distance busalternative is not applicable because they do not circulate in Ile-de-France either, and the mainline train alternative is very slow and does not allow to reach all of Europe and even less the world…

The fault of Paris Airport? Not so sure…

My last memory of a snowy weather was in December 2010. I was coming back from Catania to Montpellier, where I was living at the time, via Rome-Fiumicino and Paris Charles-de-Gaulle.

My flight from Fiumicino was heavily delayed, and the agents at Fiumicino had to rebook me on another connecting flight to Paris.

Extract from the PNR modified by the Alitalia ground staff

On arrival in Paris, still very delayed, the flight to Montpellier was finally cancelled, and no hotel could be proposed to me by Air France, the whole hotel zone of CDG being full. A night of hardship at a friend’s house: at that time, Paris Airport, formerly ADP, clearly did not have the means to clear the runways and parking areas of accumulated snow.

But since then, things have changed a lot.Paris Airport has invested massively in new equipment and has reviewed its procedures.

Moreover, the departure boards speak for themselves:only one airline suffers most of the delays:

CDG 2 departure boards photographed at T2F on Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Air France massively affected by the snowy episodes, in pictures

For Air France, the damage caused by the snow episodes was significant, especially for passengers. The airline announced that it had to cancel hundreds of medium-haul flights and several dozen long-haul flights. A hell for the ground staff, obliged to take care of thousands of stranded passengers.

Priority passengers are not spared:

A good 40 people are waiting in the SkyPriority area of T2F

Check-ins are delayed and overloaded:

An interminable queue at the T2E check-in

Luggage is delayed and stored:

Baggage delivery room used for storage of delayed parts

Finally, security checks are slowed down due to lack of personnel:

T2F screening station, overloaded following the snowy episode

To make matters worse, the Air France agency in terminal 2F is closed due to lack of staff…

Closure of the Air France agency in terminal 2F, in the middle of a snowy episode!

And as a result, the T2E agency is over-saturated:

More than 300 people in the queue at the Air France agency at T2E during the snowy period

But why is Air France so affected while the other airlines operated almost normally?

Air France suffers from its size at CDG, but not only…

It is quite normal for Air France to be more affected than other airlines, as Paris Charles-de-Gaulle is its huband its operations are more important.

But the real problem in the event of a snow event, and one that is not related to airport facilities,is the inability of staff to get to the airport. Air France staff are employees and can exercise their right of withdrawal without risk of sanction.

The staff of handling businesses, who are more precarious, do not necessarily dare to exercise their right of withdrawal and still go to their place of work to take their shift.

Butforeign airlines use these handling companies, which may explain the lower cancellation rate of these flights.


I was happy to take another airline for this business trip, so it went off without a hitch: take this variable into consideration the next time you travel in inclement weather.

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.

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