French bee is France’s first low-cost, long-haul airline. Based out of Paris Orly Airport (ORY), the airline is great for travelers with a focus on value, as ticket prices are low, add-on prices are reasonable, and their discount prices don’t mean poor service. The Paris-based crews are a competent bunch with a can-do attitude. Add in tasty onboard dining and a personal screen with an array entertainment choices and French bee passes our Bestie Test with flying colors.
What’s French bee?
French bee is a budget airline geared towards the leisure traveler. Founded in France in 2016, they broke into the US market in 2018 with their nonstop flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) and a nonstop flight from SFO to Paris Orly Airport (ORY). They increased their US presence in July 2021, flying nonstop from ORY to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
French bee offers two classes of service: economy and premium economy. Three fare types are available: basic, smart and premium.
Basic and smart fare passengers sit in economy class in identical seats. A basic ticket is not much more than a seat on the plane and a carry-on bag, though with transatlantic roundtrip ticket prices starting at under $400, it’s a bona fide bargain.
A one-way smart fare costs approximately $70 more than basic, with a checked bag, amenity kit, and inflight meal sweetening the deal. Even if you purchase the least expensive, bare-bones basic fare, you can select customizable options to enhance your flight. You pick and pay for the options you want, for an individualized experience that caters to your needs without waste.
Premium customers have their own section in the front of the plane. While it’s not business class, it costs much less than a traditional business class seat, and even less than some premium economy seats—often under $1,000 roundtrip for the transatlantic flights. Expect a roomy seat and attentive service.
- Founded in: 2016
- Hub cities: Paris Orly Airport (ORY)
- Fleet: Four Airbus A350-900s
- Subsidiaries: French bee is a subsidiary of The Dubreuil Group, a family-owned holding company based in Belleville sur Vie, France that operates airlines through its subsidiaries. French bee is a sister company of Air Caraïbes.
- CEO: Marc Rochet
- Alliance: French bee has an interline agreement with Alaska Airlines allowing passengers to purchase a combined ticket for a French bee flight, followed or preceded by an Alaska Airlines flight. This partnership facilitates the transfer of passengers and through check-in of luggage to a wider-range of U.S. destinations. The airline has a similar partnership with Air Tahiti, allowing passengers to purchase a single ticket and have easy access to travel around the Tahitian Islands. They also have a partnership with SCNF, the French National Railway, combining air and train fare into a single fare for seamless travel throughout France.
- Nonstop routes: 0 domestic, 4 international, with a 5th international nonstop route, Los Angeles to Paris, debuting in April.
- Safety rating: Zero accidents, zero major incidents
- On time rating: 71.1% on time performance
- Nationality: France
- International classes of service: Economy and premium economy
A brief history of French bee
French bee was founded in Belleville sur Vie, France in 2016, part of the family-owned Dubreuil Group. The airline was originally French blue, rebranding to French bee in 2018. It broke into the US market in 2018 when its flight from Paris Orly Airport (ORY) to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) began picking up passengers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), continuing to fly nonstop to PPT.
Its Paris Orly Airport (ORY) to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) flight launched in July 2021, giving the airline a share of the coveted East Coast to Paris market. After a pandemic break, its SFO nonstop to Tahiti flight resumed in November, 2021 as did the nonstop from SFO to Paris Orly Airport (ORY).
Though they currently offer a limited number of routes, the airline is growing at a slow but steady pace. It plans to add service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Paris-Orly International Airport (ORY) four times weekly starting April 9, 2022.
Where French bee flies
- French bee flies nonstop from New York City to Paris with service from Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal B (EWR) to Paris Orly Airport Terminal 4 (ORY) three or four times per week.
- They offer nonstop service from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) two or three times per week.
- The flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Paris Orly Airport (ORY) operates two or three times weekly.
- There’s daily nonstop service from Paris Orly Airport (ORY) to Réunion’s Roland Garros Airport (RUN), an island in the Indian Ocean that is technically a French department.
- French bee will start flying from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Paris Orly Airport (ORY) on April 9, 2022, four times weekly.
French bees hubs
Paris Orly Airport (ORY) is French bee’s only hub. (Read our travel guide to Paris here).
What we love about French bee:
- Low ticket prices. You only pay for the amenities that you want, choosing from the à la carte menu on French bee’s website.There are over twenty add-ons, with offerings like priority boarding and a compact travel kit with headphones, socks, and a pillow. It’s an effective way to customize your experience while keeping budget at the forefront. They also sell money-saving packages that bundle amenities together at a discounted price.
- Flying into Paris Orly (ORY). This smaller, more manageable airport is closer to central Paris than Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Public transportation links into Paris include the inexpensive Orlybus shuttle and RER commuter rail service. If you choose to take a taxi into Paris, the flat-rate fare is considerably less expensive than a taxi from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
- The plane’s comfort-focused design. All seats, including the least expensive, are leather and include adjustable headrests, USB and electrical ports, headphone plugs, and unlimited in-flight entertainment on extra-large HD touch screens. The Airbus A350-900 has extra-tall overhead bins for carry-ons.
- The stylish French crew, casually chic in navy-colored skirts or trousers accented with sky-blue bandanas, are all bilingual and seem genuinely glad to be there.
- French bee’s onboard dining. If hunger strikes before or after the meal service, Le Blue Cafe offers a menu of snacks like chips, cookies, candy, sandwiches, and alcoholic beverages for a reasonable price.
What we don’t love about it:
- There’s no business class. While a premium economy seat has an extendable footrest, it doesn’t go to a fully horizontal lie-flat seat.
- The airline doesn’t have any designated lounges. Passengers may pay for lounge access only at Paris Orly Airport (ORY).
- Lots of middle seats. If you’re flying economy, the main cabin’s 3-4-3 configuration means you’ve got a fairly good chance of getting stuck with a middle seat. If sitting in a middle seat on a long flight isn’t for you, reserve a specific seat at least 48 hours in advance, starting at $20.
- French bee isn’t a member of TSA Precheck so even if you have TSA Precheck, you may end up waiting in a long line.
- None of French bee’s routes to the US operate daily. So you’ll have to make sure your plans align with their schedule, and if you miss your flight or it’s canceled, there might not be one for a few days.
- French bee doesn’t offer any loyalty programs or frequent flier benefits, so you won’t be rewarded for passenger loyalty.
Great deals we've previously found on French bee
- Newark to Paris nonstop for $258 roundtrip
- San Francisco to Paris nonstop for $393 roundtrip
- San Francisco to Tahiti nonstop for $590 roundtrip
- Newark to Paris nonstop for $947 roundtrip in premium economy
Tips for booking a French bee flight
Choosing your class of service on French bee
Purchase a basic ticket and you’ll get a seat and one carry-on bag. The smart fare adds one 50lb checked bag, an onboard travel kit, and a meal.
Premium is the most luxurious option, with two 50lb checked bags, meals, travel kit, complimentary beverage service, premium cabin seat choice, expedited security and customs, priority boarding, and priority luggage delivery included.
Selecting your amenities on French bee
After you’ve selected your travel dates and class of service, continue on to select your seat (for a fee for economy class passengers) and pay for additional desired services and amenities from the ‘choose services’ menu. You can also add a seat selection and other amenities up to 48 hours before booking by clicking on ‘manage my booking’ and entering your 6-character alphanumeric reservation number and your last name.
They also offer packages that bundle amenities together offering a small discount as part of the package deal. For example, the ‘Express Pack’ provides dedicated check-in, expedited security, and priority boarding for $40, less than it would cost if you purchased these three upgrades separately.
Purchasing a French bee ticket
Booking your flight online is pretty straightforward, though keep in mind that none of French bee’s routes to the US operate daily. I traveled in premium class from NYC-Paris in August for $499 one-way, purchasing my ticket three weeks before the flight. The flight departs Newark Liberty International Airport at 11:25 pm, so I splurged on premium economy in hopes of getting some sleep and arriving in Paris ready to hit the ground running. I slept soundly in my roomy seat for around three hours, after enjoying a glass of Champagne, a glass of red wine from Bordeaux, and a French film on my personal screen.
I paid $269 one-way from Paris-NYC in economy in September, booking a smart fare four weeks prior. The flight didn’t depart Paris until 6:45 pm, so I spent the morning sightseeing and arrived at the airport in the afternoon, with plenty of time to do my COVID-19 test right at the terminal. The smart fare included an amenity pack with socks and headphones, a meal voucher inside the amenity bag, and one checked bag. I customized my ticket by adding lounge access for $37, priority boarding for $18, and a seat in the front section of economy for an extra $35.
I booked a basic seat for a flight from Paris-NYC in early November for only $199 one-way, the lowest price the airline advertises. It was low season so I easily snagged the fare a month before the flight. I only had a carry-on bag so the basic fare made the most sense. I purchased an Instant Duo meal in advance for $40. I didn’t purchase a seat in advance but I got lucky and had an entire row of three seats to myself.
Baggage fees on French bee
All passengers may bring a carry-on bag weighing less than 26 lbs and one personal item onboard.
If you’re flying on a basic fare, the first checked bag can be purchased online for $45 or at the airport for $95, while a second checked bag costs $90 booked online and $130 at the airport, so you’ll save a considerable sum paying for your checked baggage in advance.
Smart fare tickets include one checked bag. Smart fare customers pay $90 for a second checked bag booked online at least 48 hours in advance and $130 for the second checked when booked at the airport. Premium economy passengers may check two bags.
Seat selection fees on French bee
Economy class travelers pay for seat selection. You can book a seat when making your reservation, after you fill in your passenger details on the ‘choose services’ pulldown. You may also book a seat up to 48 hours before departure at ‘manage my bookings’ in the ‘choose services’, clicking on ‘additional services’.
Reserving a standard seat costs $20, a window seat costs $25, and an emergency exit row seat costs $45. If you’d like to sit in the front section of economy, called the cosy cabin, it will cost $35. If you don’t book a seat 48 hours before your flight, you will be assigned a seat at no charge.
Premium economy passengers may book a seat for no extra charge. If they want the extra legroom in the emergency exit row, it will cost an additional $105.
When I flew premium in August, the emergency row was empty and the crew thoughtfully invited a couple with an infant to sit there, giving them space for the baby’s bassinet to be positioned at their feet.
Fees on French bee
- Carry-on bag: Each passenger is allowed one complimentary carry-on bag weighing under 26lbs and one personal item.
- Checked bag: Basic fare doesn’t include a checked bag, smart fare includes one checked bag, and premium fare includes 2 checked bags. If you’re traveling on a basic fare, the first checked bag weighing up to 50 lbs may be purchased online for $45, or at the airport for $95. The second checked bag costs $90 online, $130 at the airport. A smart fare includes one checked bag. An additional bag costs $90 purchased at least 48 hours in advance online and $130 purchased on the day of departure.
- Seat selection: A seat selection is included for premium class passengers. Passengers in economy pay $20 for a seat choice, $25 for a window seat and $35 for a seat in the front of the economy section. A seat in the emergency exit row costs $45. These can be purchased online. If you don’t purchase a seat 48 hours before your flight, one will be assigned.
- Food: Passengers traveling on a basic fare can pay $25 for a regular meal or $40 for an Instant Duo meal, which includes Champagne and warm snacks for two. You’ll need to book online at least 48 hours in advance. A meal is included when you purchase a smart fare and in premium economy.
- Wifi: There are four Wifi plans available. The least expensive is the Hello Plan, $4 for 10MB. The Social Plan costs $9 for 50MB. The Geek Plan costs $17 for 100MB while the Addicted Plan is the most expensive, $29 for a 200MB plan.
What it’s like flying on French bee
I was able to check in online and print my boarding pass at home. At Paris Orly Airport, French bee is located at Orly 4. There’s a COVID19 testing site located in the sub-level, so I arrived four hours before my departure and got tested there. I had my negative result in under an hour.
All French bee passengers may purchase access to a shared Salon ICARE lounge for flights departing from Orly for $37. The ICARE lounge at Orly isn’t luxurious but it has Wifi, well-spaced seating, large windows letting in natural light, a nice selection of wine and beverages, and fresh snacks such as sliced cheese and charcuterie.
French bee has no lounges of their own and no access to lounges at any of the other destinations that they serve.
The boarding process went smoothly, whether I was departing from Newark or Orly. Passengers needing extra time or assistance went first. Premium class passengers receive priority boarding and have a designated jetbridge. All other passengers may pay $18 for priority boarding. I did this when I flew economy in September and found it to be money well spent. With COVID-19 still in the picture, I appreciated boarding early on a separate jet bridge as well as being first to place my carry-on bag in the overhead bin. Even though the plane wasn’t full, it was a less hectic way to start my flight.
The crew is very accommodating to families, helping parents fill overhead bins while they tend to their fussy toddlers. Unless you’re traveling with baby gear, French bee is a stickler for making passengers check any oversized carryon bags so make sure yours weighs under 26 lbs and fits in the overhead.
Flying French bee in economy class
There are 376 leather seats in the main cabin class, each with an adjustable headrest and a 32” or 31” pitch. Each row has 10 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration. The row of four is a nice option for families with two adults and two kids, but not so nice for solo travelers or couples who get stuck in the two middle seats.
Each seat has a larger-than-average-size personal screen with dozens of movie choices, including first-run French films, classics, children’s movies, and documentaries. A selection of television shows, video games, music, and podcasts round out the entertainment offerings. There’s also a live feed from cameras mounted on the plane, giving passengers an interesting perspective of planet earth as you cross the Atlantic. If you are flying on a basic ticket, bring your own headphones or purchase a travel kit onboard for $12 that includes headphones.
Service is attentive. The last time I flew economy, I got a papercut on my finger. A crew member noticed and immediately stopped what she was doing to locate a disinfecting wipe and bandage, despite the fact that she was very busy with the meal service.
I’m not usually a fan of airline food but French bee does a good job holding up France’s reputation as an epicurean’s paradise. Meals are included in the smart fare and cost $25 if you’re flying on a basic ticket. There’s no meal choice, unless you pre-order a pescatarian, vegan, or vegetarian meal at least 48 hours in advance. When I flew on a smart fare from Paris, the main course was a boneless chicken breast covered in a fragrant curry sauce served on a bed of jasmine rice, accompanied by a fresh green salad, baguette slices, Normandy butter, and a fruit tart. It comes with a refillable brown paper cup filled with water, as no individual plastic bottles are used on French bee flights.
Another tasty dining option is the Instant Duo, $40 booked at least 48 hours in advance. It’s a light meal that is meant for two people, but I indulged in it solo. It consists of two little bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne and two plates of crisp canapés, which were a spring roll, a beggar’s purse, and a vegetable samosa. You will pay for alcoholic beverages, though on my most recent flight the crew was generously refilling wine glasses for passengers in economy at no additional charge.
Flying French bee in premium economy class
Premium economy is French bee’s most luxurious and pricey option. A ticket includes two 50-lb checked bags, meal service, complimentary beverages, premium cabin seat choice (you’ll pay extra for the emergency row), line jump, priority boarding, and priority luggage delivery.
There are 35 leather seats in the premium economy class front cabin, with 7 seats per row for a 2-3-2 configuration. Each reclining seat has a 36” pitch and foot and leg rests. While the seat is comfortable, it doesn’t go to a fully horizontal position. The crew doles out as many pillows and blankets as you need.
I was welcomed on board with a glass of Champagne. Wine, beer, and spirits are complimentary and the crew stopped by my seat several times to see if my drink needed refreshing. Because of the Paris-bound flight’s late departure time of 11:25 pm, there was no dinner served, though there was a midnight hot dog as well as breakfast served around 90 minutes before we landed, a choice of French toast or an omelet. I haven’t flown premium economy from Paris to NYC but I was able to sneak a look at what they were eating in the front of the plane and noticed that premium passengers had a meal choice for dinner: chicken or pasta.
You will have the same personal entertainment system that economy passengers do, with the addition of an iPad mini downloaded with a vast selection of French and English magazines, books, and newspapers.
Premium passengers receive an enhanced travel kit with a pillow, blanket, headphones, socks, earplugs, and a toothbrush.
Tips for flying French bee
How to use a credit/voucher on French bee
You can use your voucher online to make a new reservation. Select your itinerary, class of service, and travel date in the booking engine. On the payment page, click on ‘apply a voucher or gift card’, select ‘voucher’ and enter your travel voucher number, starting with 396, to complete your booking. You will receive a new ticket within 72 hours.
How to change your flight on French bee
You can change your travel dates on the ‘manage my booking’ section of the website and click on ‘change flights’. Through June 30, 2022, changes are permitted for free. If you need to cancel your flight, you will receive a voucher for use on a future flight.
How to contact French bee
The call center’s toll free number is 1-833-376-7158. It is open Monday-Saturday from 7 am- 10 pm (CST).