French Bee Plans To Put 488 Seats On An Airbus A350-1000

Orly-based leisure airline French bee already operates an all-Airbus fleet with four densely seated A350-900s. This year, the carrier will take two A350-1000s, upping the capacity on each to an unprecedented 488 seats. Could this efficiency move be the key to making the low-cost long-haul model work?

French bee A350-900
French bee will take two more A350s this year – its new -1000s will be fitted with 488 seats. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The most efficient long-haul carrier?

French low-cost carrier French bee will soon be operating an incredibly efficient fleet of six Airbus A350s. The airline already has four A350-900s with 411 seats each. However, it is also expecting to take two leased A350-1000s during 2021. The forthcoming arrivals will feature a massive 488 seats each.

When compared to how other operators of the type have theirs configured, the difference is striking. Qatar Airways flies the A350-1000 with 327 seats, while British Airways has 331. This kind of next-level density will greatly increase French bee’s fuel efficiency, and as Simple Flying’s editor Joanna Bailey has said, potentially propel it to become the most efficient long-haul carrier out there.

French bee A350
French bee will become one of the most efficient long-haul carriers. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

New York – Paris for as little as $254

French bee’s new aircraft, which it will lease, will be able to accommodate 40 passengers in premium economy, and 448 in economy class. While it is not certain which variant of the A350 will operate the route, the airline has some very enticing transatlantic offers lined up for October.

Return flights between Newark and Paris-Orly are being marketed for as little as $254. This can be compared to Norwegian’s lowest prices from London Gatwick to New York, with seats selling for as little as $235 on the now no-longer-long-haul airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners. When they were still in the carrier’s fleet, Norwegian’s 787-8s could take 292 passengers, whereas the 787-9 had space for 344.

Norwegian Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner LN-LND (1)
Could French bee make low-cost long-haul work where others have failed? Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

With this new kind of seat capacity, fuel efficiency, and single-type-fleet, could French bee become the carrier to make the long-haul low-cost model work? In September, one month after the inauguration of its fourth A350-900, the Orly-based airline’s managing director, Muriel Assouline, told FlightGlobal that,

“We are a friends and family airline – if the leisure traveller cannot fly, there is no market.”

For instance, the route between Paris-Orly and Newark was originally intended to launch in June last year but was put on hold due to the ongoing crisis.

French bee and SAS fello’fly

On September 9th, Airbus announced that it had signed contracts with three air navigation providers and two airlines – one of them French bee, the other SAS Scandinavian Airlines – to trial its new fello’fly project. This intends for aircraft to make use of each other’s wake-energy, just as birds flying in a flock do, to expend less energy. In turn, this would translate into less fuel consumption and less CO2 emissions.

Would you be happy to fly in such a densely populated aircraft as French bee’s new A350-1000s? Let us know in the comment section.