A Look At French Bee – The All Airbus A350 Airline

Groupe Dubreuil, owner of Air Caraïbes and French bee, last month received its third A350-900. The delivery forms part of an ongoing lease agreement with ALC that sees three of the type in service with French bee and four with sister company Air Caraïbes.

French bee A350 on ground
French bee receives third A350-900. The airline’s fleet now comprises only A350s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The upcoming delivery of a leased A350-1000, originally scheduled for the latter part of this year, has been delayed. This is due, the airline says, to “significant changes” within the global airline industry which are “weighing on the manufacturers’ order books and on the lessors’ commitments”.

Once it receives the A350-1000 (favored also by Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Fiji, and others) French bee will be the first LCC to operate the -1000.

In tandem with the arrival of the A350-900, the carrier will transfer to Air Caraïbes its A330-300 (F-HPUJ). This will be refurbished and configured for three classes of cabin. Subsequently, Air Caraïbes will retire two of its A330-300s.

French Bee

French bee is currently the only airline to operate a fleet exclusively of Airbus A350 XWBs. The low-cost carrier, previously “French Blue”, has its hub at Paris Orly airport. From here, it operates routes to various former French colonies in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

Owner Groupe Dubreuil is a French holding company with interests in food, fuel, transportation and distribution. The company began the airline in 2016 as “French Blue” initially operating a handful of long-haul flights on behalf of Air Caraïbes.

The airline’s first liveried flight took off from Paris Orly destined for Punta Cana in September of 2016.

Air Caraïbes A350
3 A350s in service with French bee and 4 with Air Caraïbes. Photo: Airbus press release

In 2017 “French Blue” applied to the United States Department of Transportation for permission to begin services between France and the US. However, US carrier JetBlue objected to the arrival of another airline with the word ‘blue’ in its name. This forced the French carrier to consider a name change, which led to its rebranding as “French bee” at the beginning of 2018.

The French LCC’s inaugural flight to the United States took off from Paris in May of 2018. That marked the start of French bee’s commercial flights between France and North America.

Why the A350 XWB?

Of the various next-generation aircraft available to French LCCs, the A350 has attracted the most interest. This is due, in part, to the appeal of the Airbus name. But, of its upgrade from the A330, some industry observers consider the similarity of the two types to be an airline’s greatest draw. The minimization of pilot and ground crew retraining works wonders for profit margins.

French bee’s A350s are of a high-volume capacity with economy and premium class on offer. The aircraft capacity is 411 with a unique 3-4-3 economy configuration.

French bee A350 on ground
The single-type fleet strategy appears to be working for French bee. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

French bee’s routes

French bee’s service between Paris and Papeete in French Polynesia competes admirably with that of Air France and Air Tahiti Nui, although the LCC’s stop off is in San Francisco rather than Los Angeles. Due to the popularity of its inaugural Tahiti flight, the carrier intends to maintain its thrice-weekly summer schedule throughout the winter, reports MerciSF.

Furthermore, at the Paris Air Show last month, the carrier announced its intention to add a new destination to its network. “In the coming weeks we’ll be announcing a new route for the A350-900 that will join our fleet in June 2020,” MD Muriel Assouline told Aviation Daily.

The single-type fleet strategy appears to help French bee’s surviving the European malaise.