This is my first post to the TA forums. I received so many useful tips from reading the boards before my trip to Paris, that I hoped I could pass on a tip in return. We may have had a string of bad luck, but based on our experience, I'd recommend arriving 3-4 hours before your flight from CDG.
My husband and I left Paris on Saturday (9/23) after a wonderful 10-day vacation. We were staying near the Arc, so we had opted to purchase a round trip Air France Shuttle ticket (20 euros per person) for our CDG transportation. We hopped on the shuttle at 10:00 AM and arrived at the airport around 10:45 for our 2:00 flight. It was a smooth, comfortable ride and I'd use the shuttle again without hesitation. It dropped us off at Terminal 2E/2F and we were close to our check-in area for NWA (KLM / Air France).
At ticketing, we had to enter a line of about 20 people, where our passports were scanned and we were asked standard questions regarding the contents / security of our luggage. From there, we waited in the line to check in at a computer kiosk and then finally another line to drop off our bags. The agent asked if we would consider checking our carry-on luggage, as the security line was lengthy and they were looking for ways to expedite it. We were carrying fragile gifts in one bag and a laptop and digital camera in the other, nor was either bag suitable for checking (a backpack and a weekend tote) so we declined, as it wasn't mandatory. It was about 11:25 AM when we left the line.
Then, we proceeded to the boarding line. It was about 35 people long at the time we approached. There were two security men checking boarding passes and passports as we approached. One of the men was arbitrarily pulling people from the line, insisting that they had to check their carry-on bags because they were "too large" and the line was "too long." Unfortunately, I made it through the line, but my husband was stopped. His bag was clearly in regulation size and each of us only had one bag each. Despite our pleas, the security would not let us through, so we had to return to ticketing.
The ticketing agents were shocked and didn't understand why he would have made us check the bag, but said they couldn't argue with security. They were very accommodating and helped us frantically repack the contents of my husbands bag into mine and checked his bag into a large plastic sack for protection. We had to return to the ridiculous boarding line again, where we saw people with several carry-ons allowed to pass through, others with bags larger than ours, and another person get pulled for the "you've got to check this bag" game. It was completely inconsistent.
From boarding, we entered the security line. We literally stood in the same place for 30 minutes. It was horribly slow and inefficient. We knew that we had to take a shuttle to the gate beyond security, so we were quite nervous about the time. However, there was a group of people on the same flight in the line with us, so we hoped that would help the situation. Once through the metal detectors and pat down, my bag was inspected once again by hand (as was everyone's) and we were finally sent off to the shuttle. The shuttle took us to the gate, where we arrived just 10 minutes prior to boarding.
As passengers started lining up for the second shuttle (to the plane), they announced that the plane wasn't ready and delayed boarding for 20 minutes. Needless to say, I was exhausted and frazzled by the time we actually got into the plane. I can't believe it actually took 4 hours to get us there.
It could have been a fluke or the time of day we were leaving, but I'd recommend allowing plenty of time for your departing flight.