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.”
Paris’ Orly Airport, photographed in 2019
Asked about how has the pandemic affected marketing efforts, especially when trying to get brand recognition in the U.S., he explained that “When we outlined the Newark to Orly launch plans, we knew we were taking a risk despite the restrictions in place. Since July 2021, we were surprised we have seen so much response from the U.S. market as we are not very well known and new. Our low-fares are important to our customers, so we are satisfied. Most of our travelers were coming to Paris perhaps for family reasons to Paris or the other provinces.”
A French Bee A350 is parked alongside sister airline Air Caraibes at Orly Airport
As many airlines have been doing, French Bee has arranged more cargo flights from Europe using its Airbus A350s, and Rochet said it has provided “a strong avenue for us to continue our flight operations and remain at viable costs.”
“To be specific,” he continued, “the cargo side is quite good one-way (ORY-EWR). For instance, we recently had a flight from Orly to Newark with 12 tons of cargo on board. We have the capacity to carry up to 15-16 tons of cargo but we have a volume constraint. We typically focus on 10-12 tons of cargo at a time. The general trend we are seeing is where the cargo is more volume instead of weight because there is a big demand in e-commerce. To be clear we did not break even or make money. But when you look at the viable costs we are positive (fuel, maintenance, crew), this means we are not losing cash.”
Lastly, when discussing which measures French bee has put in place to ensure customer confidence, Rochet said “We want customers to trust that their safety and health are a top priority at French bee airline every step of their journey. All of our tickets are 100 percent changeable and refundable for all bookings made for travel through March 31, 2022. Additionally, COVID assistance is offered for all trips booked through December 31, 2021. We are also heavily focused on recommending that our airline crew and staff are vaccinated. Today, more than 90 percent of French bee’s crew and staff are already vaccinated.”
Part of the Kigali seen from the roof of Rwanda’s Parliament building (which you can visit!). – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
This February, I had the incredible opportunity to spend about 10 days visiting the East African country of Rwanda. Indeed, you may have already seen my previous story for AirlineReporter about my flights to and from the country. But what I wasnâ€™t able to do in that story was talk about my impressions of Rwanda itself. As someone who had never travelled to Africa before, I immensely enjoyed my trip to Rwanda and would highly recommend visiting to someone curious about the region.
I spent most of my time in Kigali, Rwandaâ€™s capital, and biggest city. Kigali left an interesting impression on me because it felt very much like a city of contrasts. Some neighborhoods (like those around government buildings and foreign embassies) have a lot of new development. I saw impressive glass office buildings, luxury hotels, new apartments, and shopping malls.
The dome on the left is the Kigali Convention Centre, a brand-new building that lights up at night. Next to it is a Radisson Blu Hotel. – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
The Alliance Tower, one of the most impressive buildings in Kigali’s Central Business District – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
That said, other parts of the city show that many Rwandans donâ€™t enjoy these luxuries. On my first day there I had the chance to take a walking tour of Kigaliâ€™s Nyamirambo neighborhood, run by the Nyamirambo Womenâ€™s Center, a local charity. This was a great way to see what seemed to be a more typical Kigali neighborhood.
In Hamburg, you have to pay attention.
Things are moving here on the edge of time. A store doesn’t open at 9:59, it opens at 10:00 exactly. Â People still have wrist watches not as an accessory, not as a nod to the 90s, but actually use them for their intended purpose. The train / subway / HochBahn is rarely, if ever, late. Only once in six whole months did I see a train come startlingly late (I would consider “startling late” ten minutes), and it caused panic to ripple throughout the crowd. Where is the train? How could this happen? When the HochBahn comes, it opens and closes its mouth within ten seconds and you better already be there to jump in. One time I made it, but my bag got caught. The doors do not wait for anyone or anything. Every four minutes it arrives and leaves. Time is important here, efficiency is important. Hamburg people cannot live on borrowed time, and there is something to respect in this efficiency.
In Hamburg, people stare at you.
Truly, stoically, painfully, everlastingly look at you. Never have a cold sore in Hamburg. Make sure you brush your hair. The staring, the (perceived but often not real) judgement, and the curiosity only increases between the elderly and the children. You feel 15 and awkward again in Hamburg. Why is everyone looking at me? They are not, in fact; everyone is looking at everyone else. Over the months, the stares don’t feel so strange or threatening. You begin to realize that the staring, the looking-for-longer-than-necessary-look is how people interact with each other here. It is different, it is uncomfortable, it can be unbearable and then… it isn’t. Eventually you will stare back.
In Hamburg, fashion is function over form. There are not a lot of bright colors or varieties of clothing here. Sensible black shoes, a FjÃ¤llrÃ¤ven backpack, a jacket that hits your knees that is both waterproof and windproof for the unpredictable dark winter. In some cases, this is a relief. You don’t have to fuss much about your wardrobe inÂ Hamburg. It is easy to wear greys and blacks and the occasional pop of color scarf. You bundle up here. The extreme humidity in the summer means you sweat, but in the winter it means there is a sharper cold. Looking put together, clean, sharp, business ready is very important, but fashion in itself is not. Maybe it is the climate or maybe it is the culture… I can’t tell the difference.
This is never a good thing to see on your computer screen
I realize this is not one of your usual #AvGeek stories on AirlineReporter, but if you’re a traveler, writer, planespotter, and/or photographer (and I happen to be all of the above to some degree), then you know that photos, whether they are taken to tell a story or record a memory, are your treasure, the fruitsÂ that resultÂ fromÂ your hard labor.
My photos may not be valuable to others, but certainly they are valuable to me… some might even be priceless and irreplaceable. Given that, you’d think I’d be more careful about protecting them. Heck, I tell others how to protect their data all the time (just ask my wife). Yet somehow, I never did… maybe it was procrastination, or naivete thinking a relatively new laptop wouldn’t fail, but in any case I had the majority of my photos in one place… on my laptop’s hard drive.Â I will be the first to admit that what I did was stupid.
So imagine that pit in my stomach that occurred when I hit the power button on my laptop and a simple text system notification appeared on my screen: “Bootable device not found…”