Today: Review of French Bee A350’s Premium Economy Class (San Francisco to Tahiti)
Last September, I flew in Premium Economy with French Bee from San Francisco to Tahiti. French Bee is a French low-cost, long-haul airline based at Paris Orly Airport (although the carrier refers to itself as “smart-cost” instead of “low-cost”). It operates flights between France and worldwide leisure destinations (e.g. New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Tahiti, La Reunion, and the Dominican Republic). French bee is the first airline in the world to have a 100% Airbus A350 fleet. The A350 combines next generation engines, advanced aerodynamics, and lightweight materials, which result in a 25% reduction of fuel consumption and operating costs compared to competing aircrafts of the previous generation, making low-cost long-haul flying viable. The A350 also reduces CO2 emissions by 30% making French Bee the airline that emits the least amount of CO2 per seat and per mile in the world.
French Bee offers two cabin classes of service onboard its A350 planes: Premium Economy Class (called “Premium Blue”) and Economy Class (called “Eco Blue”). There is no Business Class. As a low-cost airline, French Bee charges additional fees for services and amenities offered, such as for seat selection, onboard catering, and airport services like lounge access and expedited security queues. Premium Economy Class tickets though include several complimentary services and amenities, such as meals, juices, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, an amenity kit and checked/hold baggage (similar to the Premium Economy Class cabins of legacy carriers).
My overall experience with French Bee was great and I was happy with the onboard service. The seat wasn’t lie flat of course, but it was pretty comfortable and I would recommend this product if you’re trying to get to any of French Bee’s destinations at the lowest fare possible. One particular thing that stood out during my experience with French Bee was the excellent customer service. The day before my flight, while trying to check-in online, I noticed that there was a mistake with my date of birth on the ticket. I was preparing myself for a lengthy wait with the airline’s call center (as is the case with most airlines), but that turned out not to be the case: I was assisted within minutes via the chat option on French Bee’s official website by a very friendly travel agent (and I even received a follow-up phone call).
Have you ever flown with French Bee? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
French Bee features in my top 10 list of the best low-cost, long-haul airlines in the world.
- Trip: San Francisco (SFO) to Pepeete (PPT)
- Airline: French Bee
- Aircraft type: Airbus A350-900
- Aircraft registration number: F-HREV (built in 2018)
- On time departure: Yes (12 am)
- On time arrival: Yes (5 am; + 1 day)
- Miles: 4200
- Flight time: 8 hours
- Seat: 8G
- Class: Premium Economy (Premium Blue)
In this review (more information & photos below my YouTube video):
- About French Bee
- Cabin layout
- Premium Economy Class seat
- Onboard internet
- My verdict (score)
1. ABOUT FRENCH BEE
Here are some interesting & fun facts about French Bee:
- Founded in 2016, French Bee is a sister airline of Air Caraïbes. Both airlines are owned by Groupe Dubreuil, a family-owned group with a wide range of activities in the distribution and air transportation sectors.
- French Bee was initially named French Blue. However, In November 2017, while the airline as “French Blue” was applying with the United States Department of Transportation for a foreign air carrier permit to begin service to the country, US-based JetBlue raised objections to another airline serving the country bearing the word “Blue” in its name. In response, the airline was temporarily renamed to simply “French”, before the airline announced on 30 January 2018 that it was rebranding as “French Bee”.
- The company is a partner of the Airbus Fello’ Fly project. This project involves flying long-haul planes V-shaped very close, like migratory birds. These formation flights make it possible to take advantage of the wake phenomenon: the planes located at the rear, quite close , will take advantage of the groove created by the aircraft in front to propel themselves using less energy. This flight practice could reduce overall fuel consumption by around 5-10% per trip.
- French bee and its sister company Air Caraïbes have been the first airline companies worldwide to be Green Pilot® certified. Green Pilot is a new label rewarding airline companies which have developed a solid program to reduce carbon emissions in their operations and have actively involved all their employees in their green policy.
2. CABIN LAYOUT
French Bee’s Airbus A350-900 features 411 seats:
- 376 Eco Blue (Economy) seats arranged in a 3-4-3 layout. Some rows toward the rear of the aircraft configured in a 3-3-3 layout.
- 35 Premium Blue (Premium Economy) seats, spread over 5 rows in a 2-3-2 layout. Premium Blue is located in a private cabin at the front of the aircraft
French Bee also operates the A350-1000 variant which features a total of 480 (!) seats: 40 Premium Blue seats in a 2-4-2 layout and 440 Eco Blue seats in a 3-4-3 layout. This makes it one of the highest density aircraft layouts in the world. To be clear, this layout isn’t disproportionately dense compared to French Bee’s A350-900 planes. The A350-1000 is just a larger plane, so it makes sense that there are more seats. In comparison, British Airways uses A350-1000s with a maximum seating capacity of 331 passengers, while Cathay Pacific uses A350-100s with a maximum capacity of 334 passengers.
For a seat map of French Bee’s A350-900 click here.
3. PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS SEAT
French Bee’s Premium Blue (Premium Economy) seats offer 36 inches (91 cm) of pitch and measure 18 inches (46 cm) wide. Each seat is equipped with an adjustable leg, foot, and head rest as well as a power outlet. The recline on French Bee’s Premium Blue seats are comfortable, but can encroach on the space of the passenger in the row behind.
For comparison; the Eco Blue (Economy Class) seats offer 32 inches (81 cm) of pitch and measure 16 inches (41 cm) wide, with two power outlets included with each set of three or four seats.
French Bee’s Premium Economy Class passengers receive a fleece blanket and a fluffy pillow. A comfort kit is provided as well; it includes an eye mask, socks, headphones, toothbrush and ear plugs.
Meals are included when flying in Premium Blue. During this flight from San Francisco to Tahiti, a supper and breakfast were served (the menus were displayed on the entertainment screen):
- Supper was served on one tray shortly after takeoff. It comprised 4 plates: hummus with pita bread, sweet & sour chicken with fried rice, camembert with strawbery, and chocolate cake.
- A light breakfast was served 90 minutes prior to arrival in Tahiti. It consisted of yoghurt and some bread rolls.
Economy Class passengers can buy onboard food items & beverages. They can also reserve pre-paid chef-prepared meals (including kosher, halal and vegan menus).
Each Premium Economy Class seat is equipped with a 12- inch HD touchscreen. The inflight program includes 20 movies, TV shows, video games, and music. The entertainment’s highlight is the plane’s tail camera, which allows for great views of the A350’s fuselage, especially during takeoff and landing. Another fun feature is With Sudoku in solo or multi-player modes, which allows passengers to strike up in-flight friendships.
7. ONBOARD INTERNET
Wi-Fi is offered onboard French Bee’s A350 aircraft and 4 types of internet packages can be purchased:
- Hello plan: $4 USD all fees included for a 10MB plan.
- Social plan: $9 USD all fees included for a 50MB plan.
- Geek plan: $17 USD all fees included for a 100MB plan.
- Addicted plan: $29 USD all fees included for a 200MB plan.
8. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 7/10
- Seat comfort recliner position): 7/10
- Food (quality): 7/10
- Food (quantity): 7/10
- Inflight entertainment: 8/10
- WiFi: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 7/10
- Overall experience: good: 7/10