A French Bee Airbus A350 gets pushed back from the gate at Paris Orly Airport
With the United States government’s new policy for international travel starting November 8, we talked with French Bee President Marc Rochet about how that airline will be handling the changes, as well as how they’ve been managing their operations during the pandemic.
“In light of the recent travel ban lift announcement, we will be resuming our flight operations in San Francisco, which connect passengers to Paris-Orly and Tahiti, in November. During the pandemic, we shifted operations to fly through Vancouver and then Toronto to continue the route. We plan to relaunch this popular route three times per week beginning on November 10,” Rochet said.
BONUS: An Economically Elegant Flight to Paris With French Bee
French Bee had originally planned to launch its New York to Paris route in 2020, but put it on hold during the height of the pandemic. Instead, they launched the route to coincide with Bastille Day on July 14, 2021.
“We are very happy to see the U.S. traffic open to French passengers and are ready to put more demand on the Paris to New York route. We will fly at least three times per week from Paris-Orly to Newark. We are preparing to fly at least four times per week in December for Paris-Orly to Newark, and then planning three times per week from SFO to Tahiti,” he said, adding that if there is high demand, they can add more flights.
Paris is slowly opening back up to tourists
Asked about current consumer travel behavior for international travel bookings, especially to France, Rochet said that, “at this time, only American residents have been able to travel to Europe. Even with these restrictions, we have made a load factor of 60-62% by the end of September, which was really good. We achieved this by arranging cargo flights from Europe.”
Travel rules have been changing frequently over the course of the pandemic. “People are not entirely clear on the travel restrictions yet so there is some hesitancy in booking international trips right now. There’s a lot of clarity missing, but once we have a better understanding from the U.S. administration, we believe we will see a big demand to travel again,” he said.
BONUS: Big Fun During a Behind-the-Scenes Ops Tour at Paris Orly Airport
Looking ahead, Rochet said he “thinks we need to add new Airbus airplanes to our fleet each year because we do anticipate a big demand at the end of the pandemic. We anticipate that business traffic will be low. We expect bookings to increase with families traveling back and forth, as well as students and travelers.”
The ORY airport fire department during a training exercise
Behind-the-scenes airport operations tours are almost always amazing experiences, but Paris Orly Airport (ORY) seems to have set the bar for me with this one. Orly is the second-busiest airport in Paris (after Charles de Gaulle Airport), the 11th-busiest in Europe, and is located about eight miles south of Paris.
An Air France Hop commuter flight departing ORY
It’s a proper international airport and the busiest domestic airport in France. It serves 143 cities, saw a total of 33,120,685 passengers in 2018, and its three runways had 229,654 aircraft movements in 2013, which is the most recent year for which records are available.
A French Bee A359 on the taxiway at Orly Airport in Paris. It’s a very lovely livery, IMHO.
Can you have low-cost airfare and elegant service? French Bee definitely wants you to think so.
French Bee is a relatively new low-cost carrier, having begun operations in September of 2016. They’re based at Paris Orly Airport (ORY).
With a current fleet of three Airbus aircraft (one A330-300 and two A350-900s) flying to five destinations, they’re a relatively small player, and they’re France’s first LCC. They also have one A350-1000 on order, currently slated for delivery later this year.
From their ORY hub, they fly to San Francisco, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Papeete, Tahiti, and Saint Denis, Reunion, all of which are vacation destinations for French travelers.
French Bee’s A350-900 seat map
French Bee is part of the Dubreuil group, which also owns Air Caraîbes, a somewhat larger airline which primarily serves Caribbean holiday destinations from the same ORY base.
Interestingly, French Bee started out being named French Blue. When the airline applied for a U.S. air carrier permit in November 2017, JetBlue objected to the idea of allowing another airline to operate in the United States that had the word “blue” in its name. That eventually led to a rebrand as French Bee in January 2018.
With a target audience of budget-minded holidaymakers, the airline’s pricing is very competitive; fares typically run less than $700 return between SFO and ORY. An additional $250-ish buys you a premium-class seat (more 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 first week of April, traveling in 10-abreast Smart Economy/Eco Blue on the outbound leg and in their Premium cabin on the return flight.