The first terminal, designed by Paul Andreu, was built in the image of an octopus. It consists of a circular central part housing central functions like check-in and baggage claim. Seven satellites which are connected to the central building by underground walkways contain the gates.
The central building, with a vast skylight in its centre, sees each floor dedicated to a single function. The first floor is reserved for the technical functions and is not accessible to the public. The second floor contains shops and restaurants, the passengers from the other terminals by the CDGVAL shuttle home and a part of the counters from a recent renovation. The majority of counters is located on the third floor, which also has the access to travel by taxi, bus and special vehicles.
Departing travellers can reach the fourth floor, where duty-free stores and border control posts are, and access to satellite terminals in which will take place boarding tunnels passing under the tarmac. Travellers arriving in these same satellites follow a path to reach the fifth floor where baggage and customs are located, as well as the arrival area and exit areas. The four upper floors are reserved for parking or use of administration and the airlines.
The passage between the third, fourth and fifth floors is done through a tangle of escalators arranged in the centre of the building. These escalators are suspended over the central court. Each escalator is covered with a transparent tube for insulation. These escalators were often used in films (for example, in The Last Gang of Ariel Zeitoun). The Alan Parsons Project album I Robot features these escalators on its cover.
Andreu initially had envisaged building several terminals on this model. Nevertheless, the first years of operation identified several defects due to the original design of the building. While adequate for journeys originating or ending in Paris, the terminal is not very suitable as a hub since it cannot be expanded. Many passengers have been disappointed to have no view of planes from the main terminal, in contrast to the situation at the airport of Orly. It thus paved the way for a more traditional design for future terminals at CDG.