History

A statue in memory of Charles de Gaulle in London (Photo: Chris O)

Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), also known as Roissy Airport or just Roissy, is one of the busiest and most important airports in the world. It is named after Charles de Gaulle, the former French president who led the Free French Forces during the Second World War before establishing the French Fifth Republic, the constitution under which France operates today.

It is a huge airport, located 16 miles north-east of Paris, which extends over 12.5 square miles (Heathrow, by comparison, covers 4.7 square miles). It was originally known as Aéroport de Paris Nord (Paris North Airport), but it was re-opened as Paris-Charles de Gaulle in March 1974 after eight years of reconstruction that made it one of the most stunning and modern airports in the world.

The figures

In 2009, the airport was the sixth busiest in the world in terms of passengers, handling 57,884,954 travellers. It was also the world’s seventh (and Europe’s second) busiest airport in terms of aircraft movements and the world’s fifth largest in terms of cargo traffic. A total of 148 airlines (including subsidiaries) operate from the airport.

The terminals

CDG is a famously confusing airport. Officially it has three terminals, although in reality it is more like nine – terminal 2 was originally built exclusively for Air France, but it has since been expanded significantly and is now a collection of seven small terminals, 2A to 2G, housed in separate buildings, from which many airlines operate. Terminals 2A to 2F are fairly close together and can be walked between, but terminal 2G  is located 1.5 miles away from the rest of the ‘terminal’ and is accessed by bus transfer.

Terminal 1 was built to an avant-garde design, comprising a ten-floor high circular building surrounded by seven satellite buildings, each with four gates. The main architect was Paul Andreu, who was also in charge of the extensions during the following decades, including the €750m terminal 2E which collapsed and killed five people in 2004. He is famous for his work on various airports, including Dubai International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Terminal 3 hosts primarily charter and low cost airlines.

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