My Travel Words and Phrases: French Airports



Landing at the Paris-Charles De Gaulle Airport can be exciting, but also intimidating for a new visitor. As soon as you step off the plane you’re faced with signs and announcements that make no sense to you.

Start speaking French as soon as you step off the plane. Public domain image. Wikipedia Commons.

So, to help with that, here are some helpful French phrases that will, hopefully, make the airports in France just a little less daunting.

1) navettes [nah-veht] (shuttles)

Stuck in Terminal 1 and cannot for the life of you figure out how to get to Terminal 2? The airport might have a shuttle service between terminals, so try and look for navettes. That word should lead you in the right direction – if not directly to the correct shuttle, then at the very least to someone who can tell you which shuttle is right for you.

2) bagages de soute [bah-gahzh duh soot] (checked luggage)
bagages de cabine [bah-gahzh duh kah-been] (carry-on luggage)
bagages à main [bah-gahzh ah ma(n)] (carry-on luggage)

Soute literally means hold in French, or the “cargo space” on a plane or other transportation vehicle. Not surprisingly, cabine (cabin) refers to an airplane’s cabin, or the place on the plane in which passengers and employees reside, and main means hand, so bagages à main refers to luggage that you carry with you.

3) correspondances [cohr-rehs-poh(n)-dah(n)s] (connections, connecting flights)

If, say, the Paris airport is not your final destination, make sure that you follow any signs or announcements for correspondances, and do not follow signs for sortie [sohr-tee] (exit) or…

4) livraison (de) bagages [lee-vray-zoh(n) (duh) bah-gahzh] (baggage claim)
carrousel à bagages [cahr-roo-sehl ah bah-gahzh] (baggage carousel, also known as “the conveyor belt that brings out your luggage”)
tapis roulant [tah-pee roo-lah(n)] (baggage carousel, conveyor belt)

It’s probably just me, but I often have at least a few moments of frustration every time I get to a baggage claim, just trying to figure out which carousel might possibly deliver my luggage. You try and look for someone familiar from your flight, but after 6+ hours on a plane, either everyone looks familiar or no one does. Plus, the supposed “information” écran [ay-krah(n)] (screen) often isn’t showing your flight yet. And it just gets worse if vous souffrez du décalage horaire [voo soo-fray dew day-kah-lahzh ohr-ehr] (you’re jet-lagged) and surrounded by people speaking a foreign language.

If you have that problem in France, now you can just go up to someone official-looking and ask: À quel carrousel puis-je récupérer mes bagages? [Ah kehl cahr-roo-sehl pweezh ray-koo-pehr-ay may bah-gahzh?] (At which carousel can I pick up my luggage?) And point to your boarding pass to indicate flight number, departure city, and airline. If they don’t know, worst case scenario, you can just repeat the question to anyone standing at each of the carousels available.

Other useful terms:

enregistrement [ah(n)-reh-zhee-struh-mah(n)] (check-in)

contrôle de sûreté [koh(n)-trohl duh sewr-tay] (security, security check)

portique/détecteur de sécurité [pohr-teek/day-tehk-tuhr duh say-kewr-ee-tay] (security detectors, such as metal detectors)

bac de fouille/bac en plastique [bahk duh fohy/bahk ah(n) plah-steek] (screening bin/plastic bin [at the airport security check])

rien à déclarer [ryehn ah day-klahr-ay] (nothing to declare)

escale [ehs-kahl] (layover, stop)

sans escale [sah(n)z ehs-kahl] (non-stop, without layovers)

rouler au sol [roo-lay oh sohl] (to taxi, as in “the plane is taxiing, we’ll be at the gate shortly”)

To prepare for your upcoming trip whether to France or elsewhere in the world, see how our programs can help you.

– Shaina, Edtior