Why I Felt Unsafe On My Flight Home From Paris

Happy Friday! Hope you’ve had a great week! I think my body is just about back on U.S. time. I’m actually able to keep my eyes open past 8 or 9 PM now, although I’m still waking up very early, usually by 5 AM. That’s okay by me though; I’m loving the early morning hours.

I thought I’d address one of the most common concerns and questions I received before I left for Morocco. Several folks voiced surprise I was traveling there and were concerned about safety. I wan’t really worried because I knew Overseas Adventure Travel wouldn’t offer a trip there if they felt it was unsafe.

Also, whenever I book a trip, I always sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program called STEP for short. It’s quick and easy to sign up and it’s free.

 

Here’s how STEP explains their program:

I completed the short form online a couple of months before my trip. During that time I had a few emails from STEP about minor protests in a few cities in Morocco, but nothing that caused any real concern. Of course, I purchased trip insurance as I always do. Normally I purchase the type that will allow one to cancel for ANY reason, but this time I didn’t. I just trusted that OAT would cancel the trip if anything negative popped up. Keep that in mind when you’re buying trip insurance, that some companies offer insurance that will let you cancel for ANY reason, not just sickness.

 

A BIG, BIG CHANGE

One thing that happened in the middle of my trip to Morocco that caused me and my fellow OAT travelers a bit of consternation was an announcement that TSA was enhancing security for 10 departure points/airports, including the airport we were flying out of in Morocco. The announcement stated that “all personal devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage.

What??? There was no way I was putting my camera and laptop into my big suitcase if I could avoid it. I didn’t even bring along a camera case since I had just tucked my camera and my laptop into my carry-on bag. Others in my group shared stories of having had laptops and cameras stolen from their checked luggage in the past, so this was definitely a concern as we all left Morocco to fly home.

 

We knew there wouldn’t be any problem flying out of Morocco to Paris, the issue was going to be getting through security and on a plane in Paris to head home to the United States. Just before leaving I received an email from Delta letting me know that my flight out of Paris to the U.S. was being delayed by 1 hour. At the time I didn’t link that to the enhanced security procedures, but I do believe now that’s what caused the delay.

When I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport from Morocco, it was business as usual. France doesn’t participate in Global Entry so I joined the regular security lines with everyone else. As is normally the case, I noticed all the folks in front of me were taking their laptops out of their carry-on luggage and putting them in one of the little bins to be scanned. So I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t placed their laptop in their checked luggage. The security personnel were all acting normal, like nothing had changed. No one was fussing at us for having our laptops in our carry-on bags. Ummm. As Alice would say, curiouser and curiouser.

Shopping Duty-Free

Since I had some free time at the airport, I did something I had never done before, I stopped into one of the duty-free shops in the Charles de Gaulle airport. I bought a bracelet in Hermes and saved a bundle from what they cost in the states. I will definitely be checking out the Hermes boutique in the future whenever I’m in that airport with a layover. Had no idea you could save so much buying Hermes products in France (where they are made) and purchasing duty-free.

 

The Disturbing Part!

Afterwards, I headed for my gate. Now, here’s where it gets interesting and disturbing at the same time. About an hour before we were to board, an Air France employee announced that anyone who had flown in from Morocco, needed to come up to the gate now.

A good size group gathered near the gate, probably around 20 people. I was pretty far back in the line so I was able to watch what was going on. Everyone else (those who had not stepped forward indicating they were coming from Morocco) intently watched the process unfolding in front of us.

TSA had set up another security check/screening point right there at the gate. They had set up a long table and were instructing each person who had come forward to remove their shoes, coats, sweaters, etc… Then they scanned each person and their shoes with a wand-like device. They even lifted up each person’s shirt and scanned up under it.

Next, they closely examined and scanned each person’s carry on bag, having them remove almost all the contents. This definitely would not have been a good time to have packed an extra pair of underwear or any private/personal items in your carry-on because it was all pulled out and put on display for everyone standing in the line or nearby.

If a passenger had a laptop inside their carry-on bag, it had to be turned on so they could see it was a working laptop. They scanned everything: cameras, laptops, purses everything. Of course, they looked closely again at our IDs, passport, purses, etc…

So here’s the part that I found really disturbing. As I stood waiting my time to be scanned and screened, I walked over to the Air France employee who had made the announcement and asked him why he hadn’t just called out the names of those of us who had come from Morocco, instead of asking people to voluntarily come forward. Or, they could have located and pulled those people aside individually. I pointed out to him that if a person flying in from Morocco was up to no good and was planning to board our flight, there was no way they would come forward and voluntarily subject themselves to additional screening.

So, are you ready for his answer? He replied, “Because we don’t have any way of knowing which passengers have flown in from Morocco.”

What??? I just stared at him dumbfounded. I argued that surely their computer system contained that information. Surely it knows if anyone boarding our flight has just flown in from Morocco. He just cheerfully repeated his answer and didn’t seem to understand at all why I was concerned.

I went back to my spot in line and discovered that several folks in the line had overheard our conversation. They were as shocked by his answer as I was, even angry! We all got on the plane that day feeling at risk because of how poorly the screening process had been handled, hoping there were no bad guys boarding the plane with us.

Hopefully, that’s not how the screening process is being done now at that airport. I received an evaluation/questionnaire from Delta when I returned, asking how everything was. I shared what happened in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, but who knows if anyone even reads those things.

We never had any problems the whole time we were in Morocco. Everyone we met was friendly and glad to see us there. Once while walking down the street, some folks in a passing car waved and yelled out, “We love America!” Another time when we were all sitting eating in a very crowded market area in Marrakesh, someone yelled out, “Thank you America for coming back.” I’m not sure what they meant by that, but it was very nice.

With all the enhanced security measures, I’m not sure I would visit Morocco right now. I have no idea what’s going on to cause the extra screening, but I think I’d wait a bit. Morocco is a beautiful country with very friendly people and I enjoyed my visit there very much. I’m looking forward to sharing some photos of the gorgeous countryside in a future post.

Overseas Adventure Travel

I will definitely travel again with OAT. I loved traveling with a small group and that’s all OAT does is small group travel. I also like that OAT doesn’t punish single travelers by charging them a single supplement. There are so many folks traveling alone these days and both Overseas Adventure Travel and their parent company, Grand Circle Travel, are working hard to capture that part of the market. They are doing a good job, too!

If you should ever book a trip with either of those companies, be sure and mention my name or this customer number: 2634289, and you’ll get $100 off your trip for being referred. They’ll also take a $100 off any future trip I take and I definitely plan to take more with OAT.

This trip met all my expectations and was an amazing value. The food was great and the hotels we stayed in were all great. We did get bumped from a riad we were supposed to be staying in by the King of Morocco! No joke! The King was traveling through Fez and he and his entourage wanted to stay in the very same riad OAT had scheduled for us, the Riad Salam Fes. So OAT had to change our schedule to move us to a different one. The one we stayed in was great, but I will always wonder about the one we were supposed to stay in. Apparently, it was fit for a King! lol




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Comments

  1. Cyndi Raines says:

    Gosh Susan, I am so glad you are home safe and sound. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket, but honestly I was more than a little concerned for you on this trip. Glad you had a good time and I’m sure they are happy to have American tourists. I hate that we now live in a world that has to be concerned for terrorists, but I guess the way to beat them is to live your life and trust God. I did love the silhouette /picture of you on the camel – that’s awesome.

    • Thanks, Cyndi! I really never felt unsafe on the trip until I was flying back home and realized how poorly they were applying the new rule. Hopefully they have a much better system now. I definitely won’t travel to any countries where when leaving, I have to put my camera and laptop in my checked baggage. Hopefully that won’t become the standard for everyone, otherwise we’ll all be taking photos with our cellphone and and leaving our cameras at home.

  2. Wow, glad u r back safe and sound. I used to have a wander lust when I was in college at UTAustin. It was before I switched later in life to prelaw. I was majoring in teaching and my concentration was geography was thinking of teaching 4th grade. I took African geography and a Russian history and world geography and wanted to know all about everywhere outside of the US. But, now that I am in my golden? years I have decided I just would like to hang out at our national parks here. When are you hopping a boat to Antarctica? Penguins are cool.

    • Nancy, so funny you should mention Antarctica. I just got back home this morning from an event that was held by Tiffany and Co. in Atlanta and one of the other folks attending just returned from Antarctica. She loved it and encouraged me to go. I never did get a chance to ask if she went as part of a tour, although I know she was there with friends. It sounded amazing. Only thing she warned about was getting seasick during one of the crossings they made. I would love to go!

  3. Susan, that would have made me very nervous. I’m grateful you are safely home. When we traveled to Marrakech years ago, we also had friends and family questioning our decision because of safety. We never felt fearful while there, but after our return Cafe Argana in the Medina was the scene of a deadly bomb. We had eaten at this restaurant and had passed it daily as we walked about. I agree with Cyndi above. We have to live our lives.
    Yes, the Duty Free Shopping at the airport is great! Want to see your bracelet. 😉

    • How scary, Sarah! That must have felt like a near miss, having just been there. The sad part is, this kind of stuff seems to be happening all over now. You never know where it will pop up next. You’re so right, we have to live our lives. I refuse to give up traveling, then the bad guys win.
      I am sooo addicted to Hermes ClicH bracelets! I love the H on them because it feels like an ID bracelet for me since my last name starts with an H. If you check my Instagram, I posted a picture on the plane of some magazines I had picked up and the bracelet I had just bought. I purchased the in-flight WiFi so I was able to share some pictures on the way home. It’s so strange to think that I was posting photos from 30,000+ feet in the air to Instagram. lol

  4. Sheila Sexton says:

    Hi Susan, glad you had a good time in Morocco. We were there in early Feb. and had such a wonderful time. We flew to Paris also and stayed for three days and then flew home to Canada. The flight from Paris went smoothly, didn’t experience what you went through, thank heavens, that would have freaked me out. I wonder why they changed the security in such a short time from when we went and you went. We had also been in Jordan before going to Morocco and felt very safe there as well. Like you, I don’t think we’ll be going back to that part of the world for awhile, seems like the world is getting very unstable, glad we went when we did. Seems like we went to most of the same places you did, love to see the pics through your camera. Sheila

    • Sheila, glad your trip went well! I’m really glad they are keeping tabs on things, just wish the Charles de Gaulle airport was implementing in a safer way. Hopefully by now, they are.
      Yeah, I left on the 14th of March and TSA announced the new rule on March 21st, notifying the airlines to implement it within 96 hours. We flew back home on March 29th so it was officially in effect by then.

  5. Hi Susan, Welcome home. We came through CDG on the 5th of April. We were coming from Lisbon. Had no issues with my camera or tablet.

    However, I do find myself analyzing everyone who is on our flight.
    The King and his entourage probably stayed at the Mamounia. If so, you didn’t miss much. It used to be a fabulous and exotic hotel. Since it’s renovation it has lost some of it’s splendor.

  6. I would have felt uneasy as well and I’m happy your flight back home was safe. Thanks for the information about OAT and the STEP program. Hopefully the world becomes friendlier and we can all travel safely and comfortably.

  7. You had me at the email raising concerns in Morocco. No thanks. I’ll just travel overseas – for the most – vicariously, through great trips like yours.

  8. Susan, I would have been anxious with what happened at DeGaulle Airport. I have not had good experiences flying in and out of Paris! I am so glad your trip was wonderful. Can’t wait to read all of your posts! We have no plans to travel outside of the country this year. We usually travel to somewhere in Europe each year.

  9. Susan, I’m happy you’re home safe and sound. I just heard that there is a terrorist group that is using laptops to bomb planes. This will probably affect the way we travel with our laptops. I’m glad that you had a great trip and that you didn’t have to worry about this until the last few days!

  10. Lisa Weeks says:

    Thanks for sharing your life with us….ALL THE BEST from sunny St. Maarten

  11. Very disturbing indeed! What a pointess process. What bad-intentioned person would volunteer–I mean really!? Maybe it was more for show, to deter someone, or flush them out; that’s why they made such a display about the search and all? I think you have the best approach: traveling with caution, but still traveling!

  12. Certainly has changed from “the olden days” of flying…hats, gloves, smiles, etc. Keeps us on our toes….sounds as if you had a fabulous time!!! franki

  13. Alma Miranda says:

    YIKES!!! Europe is a mess right now because of that inability to screen or rather turning a blind eye. On a positive note: Ah, Hermes how do I love thee?

    I remember doing a business trip to Italy back in 1986. There had been lots of terrorists attacks and Americans were discouraged to travel to Europe. The only English speaking person we met was British.

  14. Lorraine says:

    Honestly, I was thinking “what an adventuresome woman you are” when I first read your travel to Morocco. Probably the closest I will be is my visit to Disney World Morocco!! We did have a ball with the staff there.

    My husband I I have traveled overseas quite a bit – but I am leary now to expose myself and be out of the country. Sadly.

  15. Well if that isn’t freaky flight home!

    I’m glad you had a good time and were with a good group of people.

    Looking forward to your pictures.

  16. I am glad that there was no peril on any flights or during your trip! I agree that their reasoning was not very sound!

  17. Antoinette says:

    Hi Susan, that’s crazy about the airport, but I’m not too surprised. I have flown out of that airport a couple of times and they didn’t seem too organized, but hopefully that will improve for everyone’s safety. And speaking of France, I subscribe to Victoria magazine and I just received their annual French issue and oh la la! It is absolutely gorgeous! Check it out if you haven’t already. If that doesn’t convince you to explore France, I don’t know what will!

  18. I’m glad you’re home safe and sound, Susan, and am looking forward to seeing more pics. I have to say, the idea of traveling makes me nervous with the way things are now, but at the same time, I don’t want to live in fear, as there are lots of places I’d love to see. My kids actually do more traveling than me these days, and they have visited some wonderful places – my oldest toured all over Asia for four months, an experience he’ll always remember.

  19. Marlene Stephenson says:

    There is so much terrorist stuff going on , we probably would cringe if we knew. Glad you are home and getting back to normal.

  20. Would love to see the Hermes bracelet you purchased 🙂

    • Sheila, you’re the second person to ask about seeing it. Maybe I should do a post and share my little collection. 🙂 So far I’ve only collected a few of their Clic H bracelets. I love those because I can buy them in the PM size and they don’t slide around a lot. They are easy to pair with other bracelets since they don’t slide up and down the arm too much and scratch up the other bracelets. I also love their printed enamel bracelets, although I haven’t bought any of those yet. They are gorgeous! Are you a fan of their bracelets, too?

      • I do like them – yet to purchase one for myself, though. However, you brought up a great idea of purchasing at the duty free shops at the international airports. Please do a post on your bracelets.

        • Sheila, I just remembered that you were interested in seeing the bracelet I recently purchased in the coral color. You can see it on my Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/betweennapsontheporch/
          Click on the photo there and it will enlarge for a better view. Actually, you can see three of my favorite bracelets in that photo: 2 Hermes Clic H bracelets and a silver one from Tiffany & Co. I’m obsessed with the Clic H bracelets! 🙂

          • Oh, they are just beautiful – thanks for sharing and also, based on one of your last posts, you may have to share your Tiffany treasures 🙂

  21. Airports can be unnerving places! I too am surprised that they did not know the folks traveling through from Morocco. That seems odd with computer lists, etc. And like you I agree that…someone up to no good is not going to step forward. I have become a chicken with international travel these days. You are such an adventurer! I love you photos and so I travel virtually along with you.

  22. So glad you are home safe. That had to be very unsettling and scary to say the least. I don’t like to fly as it is so that could of just sent me over the edge. 🙁 It is a shame that there is so much unrest and danger around the world. So many countries rely on tourism (such as Morocco) and are welcoming but because of the few extremists, people are afraid to travel to certain areas. I can’t wait to see your pictures from the trip as I am 99% sure I will never physically get there (even though I would like to).

  23. Have never heard of the STEP program so was glad to find out about it as I’m headed to Spain in a few weeks for a hiking trip. A little safety net is a good thing. Hoping to just “blend in” and not stand out. Surely the bad guys aren’t out on the Camino de Santiago with the hikers! Would love to see your Hermes bracelet!

  24. Apparently you were away, but it was on the news several evenings that on certain flights, from certain countries, cell phones were the only electronic devices allowed on flights to the US. It’s another step in precaution–which obviously does little except to frighten people. The terrorist always win when we’re afraid to travel–odds are, there are going to be no issues. Please don’t let it deter you from traveling and seeing interesting countries and realizing that most citizens are people just like we are in the USA, who love their families just like we do. It then becomes much less “them” and “us.”

    • Yeah, I was in Morocco on a 16 day trip when it was announced. I read about it in an email from STEP and then later our guide told us. As I mentioned in the post, the screening didn’t bother me, I’m all for that. The more, the better if it works to keep us all safe. What bothered me was the ridiculous and completely inept way it was done with the Air France asking for volunteers to come up, instead of knowing and singling out those who had come from Morocco. The screening was worthless because of how it was done.

  25. Jackie Manning says:

    Hi Susan, I think that any country welcome tourists as in the past they have stopped visiting due to terrorist problems!! I hope it doesn’t affect us here in the UK after the atrocities in London recently, where sadly one our Police Officers was murdered along with an American tourist, a young mother on her way to pick up her children from school, an elderly English man and a young tourist from Romania I think it was.
    Thank goodness there is good security at the airports , I never mind taking off some clothes and emptying bags etc.. if it keeps us all safe.
    On a slightly different subject, we have a series started recently on the TV “Amazing Hotels” and this week it is the Giraffe Manor in Kenya where you stayed! You were so lucky to stay there, it looks wonderful.

    • I don’t mind either, but I do mind when it’s done it such an ignorant way that it doesn’t keep anyone safe. Asking for volunteers to come up was such a joke. I hope they aren’t still doing that and have a better grip on what they are doing and can actually tell who is coming from where. Makes me mad every time I think about it again.
      I saw an ad for that series, I think it was in a magazine on one of the flights I had. I would love to see it! They’ve had two babies born since I was there. 🙂

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