It takes courage for an airline to start flying a new transatlantic route during a global pandemic but that’s exactly what French bee has done. The Paris-based long-haul airline launched its flight between Newark Liberty International Airport and Paris-Orly on July 15.
I recently flew French bee’s nonstop service to Paris and back from my home in New York City. I was initially attracted by French Bee’s advantageous pricing, starting at $199 one-way. Now that I’ve experienced the airline for myself, there are an array of reasons why I’d gladly fly them again.
A Softer Landing
Many airlines connect the Big Apple with the City of Lights, but they typically fly into larger (and more chaotic) Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. I appreciated the gentler landing at the more manageable Paris-Orly, allowing me to avoid the confusion at Charles de Gaulle airport. Orly is also closer to central Paris. A taxi from Orly into the city costs EUR 32, a nice savings when compared to the EUR 58 cab fare to the city from Charles de Gaulle. Had I chosen to take public transportation into Paris, I would have had numerous budget-friendly options, including the Orlybus and RER commuter rail.
A Modern FleetFlights on the New York to Paris route utilize the airline’s fleet of four Airbus A350s, recognized as one of the world’s most modern and efficient aircrafts. This extra-wide body jet is outfitted with the latest-generation in design and technology. Mood lighting mimics sunrise and sunset with 100 percent LEDs—potentially improving sleep quality and reducing jet lag—while French bee’s particularly quiet plane allows a peaceful journey that attempts to minimize long-haul fatigue. Comfort-focused design and engineering underpins the aircraft, such as in cabin pressurization, temperature control, air quality, and more. There are 411 seats, including 35 extra-roomy seats in the exclusive front cabin. All seats are leather and include adjustable headrests, USB and electrical ports, headphone plugs and unlimited in-flight entertainment on extra-large HD touch screens. Even if you book the least expensive seat, you’ll travel in comfort.
The Price Is Right
Three ticket options are sold on French bee. The least expensive option is Basic, which is a fitting name. You’ll get a seat and one 26-lb carry-on bag with this fare, starting at $199 each way.
Next up is the Smart fare, which includes one 50-lb checked bag and an in-flight meal with options including vegetarian and fish.
Smart costs $70 more than Basic, but keep in mind it’s the exact same seat, so the comfort factor is equal.
Premium fare includes two 50-lb checked bags, a premium meal, complimentary beverage service, Premium cabin seat choice, line jump, priority boarding, and priority luggage delivery. It’s the most luxurious option French Bee offers. With one-way Premium seats starting at only $469, it’s accessible for many, particularly when you compare it to the price of a business class seat on major airlines, which costs thousands of dollars.
Customizing is Key
French bee caters to the specific needs of leisure travelers with over twenty add-on services and products that allow travelers pick and choose what they want and skip what they don’t need. I found this customizable option to be an innovative and practical way to tailor my in-flight experience.
Travelers may select from over twenty à la carte offerings on French bee’s user-friendly website, purchasing what they’d like with the click of a mouse. Popular amenities include a travel kit with a blanket, socks, neck pillow, eye mask and headphones for $12. Seats with additional leg room costs $45 while access to a fancy private airport lounge at Orly will set you back $37.
On BoardI flew Premium on my way to Paris. The flight departs NYC at 10:55 pm and lands in Paris the next day at 12:20 pm. There are two lavatories and 35 spacious seats in this exclusive front cabin, with 7 seats per row for a 2-3-2 configuration. The reclining seat has a 36” pitch and foot and leg rests but it doesn’t go to a fully horizontal position. Thanks to the late departure and comfortable seat, I fell asleep as soon we took off and managed to stay asleep for most of the flight. Breakfast was served in the morning, an omelet or French toast. With a Premium seat starting at $469 each way, it was a luxury experience for a bargain price.
To economize, I booked a Smart fare on my return flight home to New York, which includes a meal and a checked bag. The flight departs Paris at 6:45 pm, arriving at Newark at 9 pm. The late departure time allowed me to spend much of the day sightseeing, a real bonus. There are 376 comfortable leather seats in the main cabin class each with a 32” or 31” pitch. Each row has 10 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration.
The cabin crew’s professionalism and genuine desire to please greatly exceeded my expectations. They were all friendly and professional, offering service with a smile in both cabin classes.
Food Fit for a GourmetParis is a gastronomic capital and the airline does its best to represent fine French cuisine while in mid-air. Meals are included in the Smart and Premium pricing but you may pay for a variety of meal options if you’re flying Basic or would like an enhanced dining experience.
My meal in the main cabin from Paris to Newark was exceptional. I dined on delicate chunks of boneless chicken breast in a fragrant curry sauce served on a bed of jasmine rice. A side salad of chopped fresh vegetables, a baguette, cheese and a luscious apricot tart took it to the next level.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that French bee collaborates with Jean-Michel Lorian, a double Michelin-starred chef. My meal was included with the Smart fare ticket, but you may order an upgraded Bistro chic meal with a menu designed by this Michelin-starred chef for an extra $55, that should exceed the standards of even the most discerning gourmet. This treat needs to be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.
A romantic dining option is the Instant Duo meal, $40 for two passengers. It’s a light meal that includes two little bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne and two plates of warm, crisp canapés, such as a spring roll, beggar’s purse and vegetable samosa. The Instant Duo also must be ordered at least 48 hours before your flight departs.
Passenger Safety is Serious Business
Fully vaccinated Americans like myself may enter France with proof of vaccination status. You will also need to fill out a sworn statement saying you have no COVID-19 symptoms. The French bee staff at Newark diligently examined my vaccination card at check-in. Passenger were all give individually-packaged wipes as we boarded. The aircraft was spotless on both legs of my journey, even the bathrooms towards the end of the flight.
To return to the U.S., you’ll need a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of departure. There’s a lab right downstairs from French bee’s Orly check-in area, making it easy to test at the airport before boarding the flight home. I advise allowing plenty of time, though in truth I had my negative test result in hand in under an hour.