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 Caraïbes, 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.
As part of a larger trip to Australia and New Zealand, my girlfriend Molly and I recently had the opportunity to fly in multiple cabins across the Qantas international and domestic network. The trip started out with a fantastic experience in their First Class cabin (review coming shortly), followed by flights in Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy. Today’s story will cover those short-haul flights within Australia and New Zealand.
The Qantas Economy Experience:
All our flights within Australia were operated on either a Boeing 737-800 or an Airbus A330-200, and the economy experience was fairly consistent throughout the flights. On the flights operated by a 737, there was a seat-back entertainment screen, which is always nice. For the flight on the A330, individual iPads were provided. I found the in-flight entertainment on both systems to be quite responsive, and the system had a good amount of content.
There’s quite a bit of debate around AirlineReporter as to whether it’s sensible to recline your seat. Our fearless leader, David Parker Brown, has stated multiple times that he doesn’t recline while airborne. On our Qantas flights, the whole recline situation was a bit complicated, as the Qantas seats recline a LOT. So if the passenger in front of you reclines, you really have a significant lack of personal space. As a result, if the person in front of you reclines, you pretty much have to recline as well. Thankfully, at meal time, the flight attendants were good about asking passengers to adjust their seat to the upright position.
Later this year, British Airways will celebrate a huge milestone: a full 100 years of passenger flights (if you count their predecessors all the way back to the Aircraft Transport and Travel company). As one of the many ways it’s commemorating the occasion, BA is making some updates to World Traveller Plus, their premium economy cabin. The current version of the seat was unveiled back in 2010, and earlier this year we got to fly it on two long-haul flights, one on a Boeing 787 and another on an Airbus A380.
We found a lot to like, from basics like more space and recline, to better amenities, and — at least on the A380– the chance to sit on the upper deck without breaking the bank! It ain’t business class for sure, but it was definitely enough to make 20 hours in the sky fly right by.
Read on for a chronicle of our trip in World Traveller Plus from Chennai to San Francisco via London Heathrow. And at the end, we’ll discuss BA’s big upcoming updates to its premium economy service.
While onboard, we got to review the newest version of the airline’s premium economy product: Virgin Premium. True to form for Virgin, the cabin experience oozed style, with sleek yet comfortable seats, great inflight entertainment, and food that could’ve been mistaken for what you’d get in business class. Of course there were parts of the experience that reminded us that we weren’t actually flying in Virgin’s “Upper Class.” But all in all, we found Virgin Premium to be a strong product that’s is well worth it when crossing the Atlantic.
Read on for plenty of photos and details from our premium economy flight with Virgin Atlantic.