An economically elegant flight to Paris with French Bee

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A French Bee A359 on the taxiway at Orly Airport in Paris. It’s a really pretty livery, IMHO.

Can you may have low-cost airfare and stylish service? French Bee positively desires you to assume so.

French Bee is a comparatively new low-cost service, having begun operations in September of 2016. They’re based mostly at Paris Orly Airport (ORY).

With a present fleet of three Airbus plane (one A330-300 and two A350-900s) flying to 5 locations, they’re a comparatively small participant, they usually’re France’s first LCC. Additionally they have one A350-1000 on order, presently slated for supply later this 12 months.

From their ORY hub, they fly to San Francisco, Punta Cana within the Dominican Republic, Papeete, Tahiti, and Saint Denis, Reunion, all of that are trip locations for French vacationers.

French Bee's A350-900 seat map

French Bee’s A350-900 seat map

French Bee is a part of the Dubreuil group, which additionally owns Air Caraïbes, a considerably bigger airline which primarily serves Caribbean vacation locations from the identical ORY base.

Curiously, French Bee began out being named French Blue. When the airline utilized for a U.S. air service allow in November 2017, JetBlue objected to the concept of permitting one other airline to function in the USA that had the phrase “blue” in its title. That ultimately led to a rebrand as French Bee in January 2018.

With a target market of budget-minded holidaymakers, the airline’s pricing could be very aggressive; fares sometimes run lower than $700 return between SFO and ORY. An extra $250-ish buys you a premium-class seat (extra on that later).

There are 411 seats on a French Bee A359: 35 Premium, 50 Cosy, and 326 in Eco Blue.

I flew with French Bee on their SFO-ORY-SFO route the primary week of April, touring in 10-abreast Good Economic system/Eco Blue on the outbound leg and of their Premium cabin on the return flight.

That's a lot of seats - the 10-abreast A359 economy cabin. Photo courtesy French Bee

That’s a whole lot of seats… the 10-abreast A359 financial system cabin – Picture: French Bee

The airline has three fare courses. First is a fundamental financial system product that features no checked luggage, however permits one 12kg (26 lb.) carry-on bag and one private merchandise. The Eco Blue Good Economic system product provides a single 50 lb./23kg checked bag and an in-flight meal (which prices an additional $25 in case you’re in fundamental financial system).

The Premium fare will get you the Good Economic system service plus a second checked bag, the flexibility to pick your seat at reserving, precedence check-in, precedence boarding, and precedence baggage supply, together with a menu of different choices outlined on the above hyperlink. It’s a fairly whole lot for the value.

SFO's heartbreaking thermal window film makes for some sad photos

SFO’s heartbreaking thermal window movie makes for some unhappy photographs

In step with the LCC a la carte pricing scheme, if you wish to be assured of sitting subsequent to a touring companion, it’ll price you one other $50 for that privilege, no matter which service stage you’ve chosen.

SFO-ORY, Seat 12Okay, Good Economic system, Cosy part, Tail F-HREV

Our flight from SFO to ORY originated in Papeete, so SFO primarily serves as a gasoline and crew relaxation cease alongside the best way, because the route is much too lengthy to cowl in a single leg.

The airline’s shared check-in counter is situated at counter 12, on the far finish of SFO’s big worldwide terminal. I had arrived at SFO fairly early by way of a connection from Seattle, so I figured I’d simply test in early when the ticketing counter opened so I may go to the airport’s new statement deck.

Once I arrived on the counter, there was already a 10-deep line of apparently like-minded vacationers. We have been informed by an airport official that the check-in counter was scheduled to open at Four:30 p.m. for the eight:35 p.m. flight. 5 French Bee gate brokers arrived at 5:15 p.m. As soon as they set to work, check-in proceeded effectively and I used to be quickly on my method to security.

French Bee doesn’t presently take part in TSA PreCheck, however the common SFO security line wasn’t lengthy within the mid-afternoon and issues moved alongside fairly effectively.

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Examine-in opens at Four:30 p.m.

Ready to test in

Departing on time

Curiously, practically all the gate bulletins have been made solely in French, which made issues powerful for these of us with horrible French language expertise. On the plus aspect, it received my mind working to mud the cobwebs off the reminiscence of long-ago school French courses, and compelled me to speak with a few different vacationers in hopes that their French listening expertise have been higher than mine. As issues like this have a tendency to do, all of it labored out simply superb in the long run.

The inbound flight was a bit late, which additionally pushed again our boarding. However, as was defined very properly on this current BBC Information story, just about all airways pad their printed flight occasions to permit for such points. As soon as we received going, regardless of leaving 30+ minutes later than our scheduled eight:35 p.m. PDT departure, we ultimately landed 20 minutes forward of the printed Four:20 p.m. CET arrival time.

This flight additionally marked this AvGeek’s first A350 flight, so I used to be fairly excited to get on board the plane. I used to be happy to notice the big home windows, cavernous overhead bins, and the quiet inside even at takeoff, and I didn’t must hunch over to face within the bathroom, both.

My seat was 12Okay within the Cosy part (aka up entrance away from the engines the place it’s quieter) Good Economic system class. I had a big window from which to observe the world go by, plus I received fortunate and there was an empty center seat in our row.

Now that's a window

Now that’s a window

The financial system seats are slimline, much like the sort usually seen on U.S. home airways. There have been no pretenses that 10-abreast (Three-Four-Three) seating wouldn’t be tight. As a non-standard sized traveler (I’m tall, however not like most individuals, my peak is in my torso slightly than my legs), the 32″ seat pitch was superb till the individual in entrance of me reclined their seat, then I used to be wanting on the prime of their head. The 16″ seat width would have been extra noticeable had I not lucked out and had an empty seat subsequent to me.

No surprises right here

Good Economic system seating

Not a ton of room as soon as the individual in entrance of you reclines their seat

The in-flight leisure system options giant seat-back screens, USB energy retailers with sufficient amperage to cost my iPad (which was a pleasing shock; even some mainline carriers’ top notch seats don’t meet that customary), and a big collection of movies and music. The planes are additionally geared up with exterior cameras accessible by way of the IFE system, however it appeared that financial system passengers couldn’t entry them regardless that I may see individuals within the premium part viewing them.

One enjoyable perk on this journey was that their wonderful satellite tv for pc WiFi is free to all flyers till June 10, because of a promotional supply celebrating the brand new ORY-SFO-PPT route. So, I used to be in a position to annoy my spouse by way of textual content and surf the online as a lot as I needed.

Bonne chance - free WiFi until June 10!

Bonne likelihood – free WiFi till June 10!

I used to be pleasantly stunned to seek out that the WiFi labored nicely each time I used it, no matter our location alongside the route. As soon as that promo deal expires, although, the common costs are fairly spendy, starting from US$9 for 10 minutes to US$49 for 4 hours of connectivity.

The Good Economic system meal

I do love the A350 wing

The a la carte morning espresso

The flight attendants have been constantly pleasant, courteous, polished, and useful, which set a really nice tone for the entire flight.

The meal was as anticipated for an financial system flight – a simple affair of hen teriyaki, white rice, and couscous, together with a roll, brownie, and glass of water. Nothing that’ll change your life, however it’s not designed to.

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As soon as we received settled in to the flight, I used to be drained sufficient that I managed to sleep for about 4 hours; the quiet A350 cabin didn’t damage.

Breakfast was a la carte, with selections made out of a menu. I wasn’t very hungry, so I opted for a cup of Nescafé with powdered creamer, which set me again US$2.50.

As soon as we landed at Orly and cleared customs, I discovered my method to Orly’s bag declare space, which had indicators displaying an estimated bag supply time of Four:30 p.m. The belt began promptly at Four:31 p.m., however no luggage appeared till Four:45 p.m. Six luggage popped out, then there was nothing else till 5 p.m. Mine ultimately got here out after an hour.

I’ve since realized that the glacially-slow bag service is, actually, a function of Orly. Luckily, the airport is presently present process an in depth renovation challenge, which I’m informed will embody enhancements to the bags dealing with techniques.

Whereas in Paris, I used to be handled to an in-depth operations tour of Orly Airport with each French Bee and ORY workers, together with some nice interview time with two of the airline’s C-suite people; look ahead to separate upcoming tales on these subjects.

While not a typical flight-review photo, I was grateful for the opportunity to see Notre Dame on the trip

Whereas not a typical flight-review picture, I used to be grateful for the chance to see Notre Dame on the journey

As an apart, I additionally spent a day in Paris, which included a stroll by means of Notre Dame Cathedral; I really feel lucky to have been in a position to go inside earlier than the tragic fireplace on April 15.

Orly Airport Commentary Deck

A cool discovery was that ORY has an statement deck. It’s free, and also you don’t have to be a ticketed passenger to go to. It’s on the fourth flooring, simply accessible from the check-in space by way of stairs or elevator situated not removed from the French Bee assist desk.

Although it's well-secured, ORY's observation deck is bright, airy, and offers great views

Though it’s well-secured, ORY’s statement deck is brilliant, ethereal, and affords nice views

There isn’t a lot signage pointing to the glassed-in deck, however it’s positively value searching for out because it gives nice views of the airfield.

Views from the ORY observation deck encompass a couple of taxiways, an entrance road, a runway, and, currently, a construction site. Air Caraïbes is the sister airline to French Bee

Views from the ORY statement deck embody a few taxiways, an entrance street, a runway, and, presently, a development web site. Air Caraïbes is the sister airline to French Bee

ORY-SFO, Seat 5K, Premium Class, Tail F-HREU

The Orly Airport terminal features a futuristic-looking pedestrian walkway

The Orly Airport terminal incorporates a futuristic-looking pedestrian walkway

Quickly, it was time to make my method again residence. Precedence check-in is included with a Premium Class ticket. It was nice. It’s considerably much like TSA Precheck. You possibly can go away your sneakers on, however electronics and Three-1-1 liquids nonetheless want to return out of your luggage at security. The entire security and customs course of took only a few minutes by way of devoted traces.

At ORY, French Bee has automated a lot of its check-in course of, even past the usual kiosk-based procedures we’re used to within the States. For instance, you’ll be able to weigh and drop your personal luggage on the counter when you’ve tagged them, ostensibly saving extra time.

Queueing up for checkin

Queueing up for check-in

A shared automated check-in kiosk at ORY

An automatic check-in kiosk at ORY

One of French Bee's automated bag-drop counters

One among French Bee’s automated bag-drop counters

iCare Lounge entry is included – it’s a shared facility, however it was comfy sufficient, with loads of seating and the anticipated meals alternatives, comparable to cheese and baguettes, loads of wine and booze choices, and a delightful number of nonalcoholic drinks.

The devoted specific check-in lane

The shared iCare lounge

The lounge was brilliant and spacious

On the down aspect, there was a definite lack of energy retailers within the lounge (as in, I couldn’t discover any with out having to unplug lighting fixtures), and the home windows featured a wonderful view of the terminal’s rooftop HVAC gear.

As soon as on the gate, it was deja-vu another time: we’d depart late as a result of the inbound flight was late. Flight time was introduced to be 10 hours, 25 minutes.

The big windows offered a good view of the ramps during boarding

The massive home windows supplied an excellent view of the ramps throughout boarding

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This time I used to be in Premium class (a 2-Three-2 structure), in seat 5K – the primary row – so it was a bulkhead seat with tons of legroom; it was fairly a distinction with the primary flight. Even higher, there was nobody seated subsequent to me, so I had my very own row.

The IFE controls have been positioned such that I saved turning them on by accident

Heaps extra space up entrance

No scarcity of legroom within the first row

With such tight seating within the again, the change to giant enterprise class seats was nothing wanting astonishing. French Bee’s Premium cabin is a snug and enjoyable setting. It’s not a full-on top notch expertise, however budget-conscious enterprise vacationers ought to be happy, particularly contemplating the comparatively modest fare variations.

The tail camera was amazing to watch, especially when we started throwing contrails.

The tail digital camera was superb to observe, particularly after we began throwing contrails.

As soon as we’d gotten established at cruising altitude, dinner appeared. It consisted of a coconut hen curry, smoked salmon paté, bread, brie, and some seeded grapes, with chocolate mousse and the world’s tiniest stroopwaffel for dessert. The presentation is pure cafeteria, however the meal was fairly good.

Dinner was, unsurprisingly, better up front. 

Dinner was, unsurprisingly, higher up entrance

The flight crew was each bit as superior as on the primary flight — constantly pleasant, cheerful, .

We got amenity kits, which I wasn’t anticipating on an LCC. They’re fundamental, however acceptable to the flight – socks, a watch masks, and a dental package in a blue material pouch. On the outbound leg in Good Economic system, we have been supplied with socks and a watch masks in a transparent plastic bag; that was additionally a service perk I wasn’t anticipating.

The westbound flight to SFO was largely in daylight, so it was trickier to sleep, even with the window shades drawn. I opted to largely watch the tail digital camera feed and skim; it made for a snug and nice journey.

Breakfast was included in Premium, and included coffee, which for me is all that really matters anyway

Breakfast was included in Premium, and included espresso, which for me is all that basically issues anyway

As soon as at SFO, I used to be the second individual off the airplane, and there was no line on the World Entry kiosks, possible as a result of we landed a bit late and missed a giant wave of worldwide arrivals.

This half was a brand new file for me: it took a mere 5 minutes to get from the airplane, by means of customs, and to the bag declare space.

Then actuality arrived. I received to chill my heels for 45 minutes ready for my bag. Plainly, for some unknown motive, practically all the luggage with precedence tags have been delivered to the outsized space on the different finish of the bag-claim space.

I had requested a gate agent for assist, as a result of by then the carousel had stopped and my bag was nowhere to be seen. We actually chanced throughout the baggage whereas strolling previous the oversize-bag space on our method to the assistance desk. This was additionally an airport-side concern, however that didn’t make it any much less irritating.

Regardless of the airport bag-delivery points, the general expertise was excellent. It’s an LCC, and also you get what you pay for (or choose to not pay for), however with very polished service no matter cabin class.

Would I fly them once more? Completely. Particularly because the improve to premium is comparatively reasonably priced and well worth the extra cash on such a protracted flight. Even in case you’re sticking with financial system to save cash for these superb Parisian patisseries, the onboard service and new plane mix to warrant a stable suggestion.

Disclosure: French Bee invited AirlineReporter on board at its expense for the round-trip flights and Paris lodging; our opinions stay our personal.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR – SEATTLE, WA Francis Zera is a Seattle-based architectural, aerial, aviation, and industrial photographer, a contract photojournalist, and a confirmed AvGeek.

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