Whoa: French Bee’s New 480-Seat Airbus A350-1000

Whoa: French Bee’s New 480-Seat Airbus A350-1000

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French Bee has just taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000, which features 480 seats. This makes it the world’s most efficient long haul aircraft. I’m undecided as to whether this is an incredible feat, or just sounds plain awful.

What is French Bee?

For context, French Bee is an ultra low cost carrier that launched operations in 2016. The airline operates a fleet consisting exclusively of Airbus A350s — initially the airline had a fleet of four A350-900s, and now the airline is taking delivery of two A350-1000s.

As far as French Bee’s destinations go, the airline flies from Paris Orly (ORY) to San Francisco (SFO), with continuing service to Tahiti (PPT). On top of that, the airline is soon launching flights to Newark (EWR), as well as flights to Los Angeles (LAX).

French Bee’s new 480-seat Airbus A350-1000

Since launching operations, French Bee has operated a fleet of four Airbus A350-900s, featuring a total of 411 seats. This includes 35 premium economy seats and 376 economy seats, making them among the densest A350-900s out there.

Now the airline is taking delivery of two Airbus A350-1000s, featuring a total of 480 seats. This includes 40 premium economy seats and 440 economy seats. In part, the airline is able to cram so many seats on the plane because there are 10 seats per row in economy, rather than the standard nine.

French Bee A350 economy

To be clear, this new configuration isn’t disproportionately dense compared to the A350-900. It’s just a larger plane, so it makes sense that there are more seats. It’s the sheer number of seats we’re talking about that’s remarkable here, if you ask me.

Just to compare this to some other airlines operating the A350-1000:

French Bee A350 premium economy

French Bee’s A350-1000s are likely the world’s lowest cost long haul aircraft in terms of per-seat operating costs. The A350 is incredibly fuel efficient to begin with, and then on top of that no airline has installed as many seats on a twin-engine long haul aircraft (All Nippon Airways has 514 seats on its 777-300s, but those are specifically used for short haul domestic flights).

Just to put this into perspective, Virgin Atlantic used to operate a 747-400 in a leisure configuration with just 14 business class seats, and those featured “just” 455 total seats. And the economics of the 747-400 are much worse than those of the A350-1000.

Does a plane this dense make sense?

I’m fascinated by French Bee’s A350-1000, and have a few conflicting thoughts here. Historically the long haul, low cost airline business model simply doesn’t work… just ask Norwegian. So could this be any different?

  • French Bee’s configuration is materially more efficient than what we’ve seen from other long haul airlines, and the per-seat operating costs here must be wildly low; for example, these planes feature 150 more seats than Norwegian’s 787-9s did
  • At the same time, this efficiency is only worth anything if the airline can consistently fill those seats
  • The question becomes how often French Bee can sell nearly all 480 of those seats; the airline does have the benefit of operating in some markets with different seasons, but I still just don’t see this working all that well in winter (due to lack of school breaks, etc.)
  • While many passengers are willing to sacrifice comfort to save money, French Bee operates some ridiculously long flights, like the nearly 24 hour journey from Paris to Tahiti; are passengers willing to subject themselves to that (including 10-abreast seating) if the price is right?
  • Unless the airline can consistently fill those seats, it would make more sense for the airline to offer different types of seating products so that the airline can get more revenue per passenger; for example, the airline could also offer flat beds, and that would make a whole new crowd interested in flying the airline

To me this is going to be a very interesting plane to watch. If the airline can consistently fill nearly all 480 seats, even at low fares, this plane could be a cash cow. Meanwhile if these planes are mostly empty in the off-season, the economics will be much tougher.

French Bee A350 economy

Bottom line

French Bee has just taken delivery of its first A350-1000, which should be the world’s most efficient long haul aircraft in terms of per-seat operating costs. While that sounds great in theory, one has to wonder if French Bee will be able to achieve load factors that make this worthwhile. Comfort aside, boarding a non-double decker with 479 other passengers just doesn’t sound fun, and that says nothing of the inflight experience.

What do you make of French Bee’s A350-1000 — brilliant or awful?

Conversations (61)
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  1. Peter Guest

    I just flew on their ORY-EWR flight roundtrip. Both flights landed on time. In flight product ok, with full reclining seats, ample video choices, outside cameras. Food adequate, although you pay for everything. I am 6ft 1in and over 230 pounds. Seats a bit narrow for me- but again, we saved over $2500 as. Family of 5 flying with them. new year eve checkin at ORY was a disaster and a wast of 90 minutes....

    I just flew on their ORY-EWR flight roundtrip. Both flights landed on time. In flight product ok, with full reclining seats, ample video choices, outside cameras. Food adequate, although you pay for everything. I am 6ft 1in and over 230 pounds. Seats a bit narrow for me- but again, we saved over $2500 as. Family of 5 flying with them. new year eve checkin at ORY was a disaster and a wast of 90 minutes. They seem to not know how to handle US flights and their special needs regarding customs etc.

    Otherwise, not much different than economy basic on any major.

  2. RUNstf Guest

    You forget to mention that these A350-1000 will fly between Paris and Reunion island (French island in the Indian ocean), where the demand for flights to France is very high!
    We already had 3 flights with this 480-seater plane.... All full!

  3. Gearld Wood Guest

    Bad Idea ! Too many seats for long haul . SAVINGS if any not worth it . Air line will not sell out all the time = lower!

  4. warren trout Guest

    The vacation traveler says the want space. They buy cheap.

  5. Cawley Guest

    I think French bee are game changing low cost long haul ,so in the winter months down from 479 filled seats to an average of 310 the summer months you'd have maybe 600 people booking for a flight of a lifetime

  6. Jorge Paez Guest

    Just click the X At the top right of the video widget and it goes away.
    Problem solved!

  7. Concerned Reader Guest

    Does it matter to you at all that everyone has been complaining about the website design? It needs serious investment in restructuring and design. Put a post up telling us you're aware of the flaws and working on it.

  8. Sotires Guest

    French Bee has been flying to Newark for several months. This article is very out of date.

  9. shoeguy Guest

    Just waiting for the inevitable operational issue that will result in 480 cheap tourists stranded somewhere for days because the airline does not have a plane and will need to ferry one in from a network carrier. Hard pass.

  10. Scott Guest

    Have to agree with the comments about the video widget -- it is highly annoying. I didn't know about the reader view in Safari until someone in the comments mentioned it, but I just checked it out and it's awesome.

  11. Vladimir Guest

    Ben, you forgot to mention the world's densiest 777-300ERs of russian Azur Air (VQ-BZA/C/D/F/Y) which have 531 seats (C7Y524) and are used at some leisure long-haul routes (like LRM and VRA) from Moscow

  12. Brianair 737 Guest

    A major part of what makes French Bee successful as a long-haul LCC (unlike Norwegian) is the fact that they serve high-volume leisure and VFR markets, and many of their routes have the benefit of being domestic flights due to their focus on French Overseas Territories. For instance, you forgot to mention that they also fly ORY-RUN. There's a reason why along with them, Air France, Air Austral, Air Caraibes, and Corsair all send super...

    A major part of what makes French Bee successful as a long-haul LCC (unlike Norwegian) is the fact that they serve high-volume leisure and VFR markets, and many of their routes have the benefit of being domestic flights due to their focus on French Overseas Territories. For instance, you forgot to mention that they also fly ORY-RUN. There's a reason why along with them, Air France, Air Austral, Air Caraibes, and Corsair all send super dense leisure-configured planes on the Paris-Reunion route (and the routes to the French Caribbean for that matter). I remember back when Air Austral was considering the densest configured A380 for it. These French overseas routes are really something else in terms of demand! I feel like there is a place for long haul LCCs to actually work sustainably on such kinds of routes, especially if they are leisure-oriented (Japan-Hawaii seems like the most comparable), but they are few and far between.

  13. Alpha Golf Guest

    Slight correction - EWR has been operating since July

  14. Richard Seay Guest

    he isnt listening guys , i am close to unsubscribing

  15. Chris Guest

    The French seems used to it. Don't forget, Corsair was flying the B747 with 587 passengers! Nothing compared to the B747 with 455 on Virgin Atlantic, or 522 on Rossiya...

  16. Dave Guest

    It is not true that a long-haul low cost airline doesn't work. Air Transat has been operating low-cost long haul flights (Ie Vancouver to Europe, Toronto and Montreal to Europe) for over 35 years and it has made profits for many years. They have been very focused and did not shy from operating extremely dense configurated aircrafts (362 seats on A330-200 - so 3-3-3 config, and 238 seats on A310-300 - 3-3-3 config).

  17. Sbhaynes Guest

    Hard pass!! Way too many seats for jet design.

  18. Tim Guest

    Wow! What a way to travel. I just hope that passengers are nice to each other & crew.

  19. Andrew-Stuart New Member

    I think that the thought of flying to begin a holiday in Tahiti or Paris would keep me excited enough to survive 10+ hours in Y class. But in all seriousness, it's more likely that after the first 3-4 hours, I'd start to notice the fact that the cabin is full of screaming babies and kids running wild. An uncomfortable seat that doesn't allow me to get any sleep. Massive queues to use the bathroom....

    I think that the thought of flying to begin a holiday in Tahiti or Paris would keep me excited enough to survive 10+ hours in Y class. But in all seriousness, it's more likely that after the first 3-4 hours, I'd start to notice the fact that the cabin is full of screaming babies and kids running wild. An uncomfortable seat that doesn't allow me to get any sleep. Massive queues to use the bathroom. Horrible food that doesn't fill me up or food that I don't get unless I get out my credit card. Rushed and irritable cabin crew who are there only to do one meal run and then disappear from sight for the rest of the flight. I notice that French Bee has Premium Economy, which does sound like it would be more bearable. But I fear that being an ULCC, I'd wind up paying 25% more for my airfare and simply get the seat/service that other airlnes, mostly Asian carriers, offer in their Y class.
    Aaahhh, but the thought of lying in a hammock in Bora Bora or dining in a French restaurant with views of the Eiffel Tower really are too lovely to consider flying French Bee for any number of hours in Y class....

    1. Mick Guest

      Couldn't agree more, nine wide is bad enough in a 787, but 10 wide in a marginally wider frame of the 350 - not on your life !!

  20. Backsplash Guest

    2-3-2 PE vs 3-4-3 Y? That’s a very generous seat per row ratio in PE.

  21. Evan Guest

    This is exactly the reason why people should not necessarily equate comfort to a type of aircraft (i.e. - Airbus vs. Boeing). While there are some things that the manufacturer can do, the ultimate decision on comfort is the airline itself.

    That's why when people say to me, the Airbus 320 is more comfortable than the Boeing 737, I take it with a grain of salt. I've sat in a Delta 737-800 and a Spirit A320. DL hands down.

    1. MG Guest

      Evan,
      Exactly. The "Comfort" levels of either tube in the sky are minimal to begin with. The differences are subtle and vary so much that most wouldn't be able to tell a difference had they not known actual specs, etc beforehand. This airlines just looks like a Spirit on steroids. There is also a reason why I keep my spirit flights to under 3 hrs...

    2. Eskimo Guest

      This is exactly the reason why people should not necessarily equate different things as comparable, when they can compare the same thing.

      That's why when people try to compare Apples to Oranges, I take it with a grain of salt. (yummy, just realize after typing this pun)

      How about a Delta 737-800 and a Delta A320-200?

  22. RF Guest

    Longhaul on this would be miserable. No way.

  23. Kuloko Guest

    After about 5 years, AA will purchase used A350-1000 from Frenchbee and strip individual screens from the seats...

    1. SQ51 Guest

      because "the schedule is the product", not the seats

  24. Peter Guest

    The new video widget is widespread all over the internet and absolutely horrible. I think I’m going to have a mental breakdown from them.

  25. James S Guest

    The only question that matters is how many bathrooms

  26. Anon Guest

    From what I read, this plane will exclusively felt between Paris and Saint Denis de la Reunion.

    1. Max Guest

      The modern slave-transportation.

  27. jak Member

    FYI Ben, the autoplaying video in the lower right corner of every page which overlaps content is so distracting that I now exclusively use Safari's "Reader View" on your website which means I see *none* of your advertising.

    1. Jance Guest

      Thanks for the suggestion, I'll be doing that too.

      Of course, nobody cares if you actually SEE it. What counts is is he gets PAID for shoving that in your face, whether or not your face notices...

  28. SKF Guest

    I hope they don't have any issues with the bathrooms midway through. That could be messy!

    1. Dick Bupkiss Guest

      What bathrooms?

      By removing the bathrooms, you can squeeze in 8 more rows. "Just hold it...and think of that cheap ticket price."

  29. Dick Bupkiss Guest

    The world continues to transform itself to WalMart.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Walmart? What about it and a high density airplane?

      I don't see Walmart stores have more dense shelf or tighter walking space than Target or (OMG!!!!!) Whole Foods.

      Is it the price?
      If AA sells their ticket at Spirit prices, they are Walmart?
      If AA sells their ticket at Delta prices, they are Whole Foods?

      Or the only reason you generalize and discriminate Walmart is maybe because, you're a racist?

    2. Joseph Andrew Powell Guest

      What the hell does race have to do with anything. Just shut up you moron.

  30. BC Guest

    At the right price for me, I'd do it from EWR-CDG for 7 hours in Y.

    24h CDG-PPT (and even 12h SFO) is really pushing it. I typically save my miles for J/F for more than 12hr flights and don't waste them on J from NYC -> western Europe. I fly to east asia enough to make it matter.

    But that's just me.

  31. Dogtor Guest

    Uh, 480 people evacuated in 90 seconds? Unlikely... It's a death trap.

    1. Gary Quan Guest

      And what happens if one or more exits are unusable? The 309 people (297 pax and 12 crew) who evacuated from AF358 at YYZ in August of 2005 all got out through the left side exits. Apparently none of the right side exits were usable (and everyone on board did get out and survived).

  32. Abey Guest

    I’m a little concerned on the safety and how many people can exit an airplane when its this dense

    1. Dick Bupkiss Guest

      Be "concerned" all you want. Nobody cares. For the target demographic, price is all they care about.

  33. Clem Diamond

    I would absolutely LOVE, LOVE to read a review of that product Lucky (change of pace from Four Seasons/Rosewood level stuff :D ).

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      It would be hilarious.

      Make it so!

  34. SBS Guest

    Majority of infrequent travelers are clueless about differences in cabin layout, inflight service and other aspects of flying on different airlines. All they see is the price for an economy ticket, and in their mind all economy seats are the same.

    While this blog is mostly focused on premium travel, it could be useful to have a ranking of long-haul wide-body economy seats too. My (probably incomplete) best-to-worst list would be:
    1. 10 seats...

    Majority of infrequent travelers are clueless about differences in cabin layout, inflight service and other aspects of flying on different airlines. All they see is the price for an economy ticket, and in their mind all economy seats are the same.

    While this blog is mostly focused on premium travel, it could be useful to have a ranking of long-haul wide-body economy seats too. My (probably incomplete) best-to-worst list would be:
    1. 10 seats per row A380
    2. 8 seats per row 787 (JAL only?)
    3. 7 seats per row 767
    4. 9 reclining seats per row 777 (are there any of them left?)
    5. 9 seats per row A350
    6. 10 seats per row 747
    7. 9 seats per row 787
    8. 9 non-reclining seats per row 777 (ANA only? I hate these shell-type economy seats)
    9. 10 seats per row 777
    10. 10 seats per row A350

    Am I missing anything?

    1. Will Morrison Guest

      8 seats per row on A330/A340
      Very convenient for couples, families, and for getting a row of 2 to yourself when flight is not busy.
      I’d personally put it at least on par with the 767

    2. SBS Guest

      Thanks, I completely forgot about 2-4-2 A330/A340. I would rank them as 3.5, with an honorable mention of A340-600 and its bank of downstairs bathrooms that could merit a 2.5 for having a single consolidated queue, and not having any bathroom-adjacent seats.

    3. stogieguy7 Diamond

      Exactly! The average leisure flier is incredibly uninformed and sees only a low price which he/she jumps at. Only once buckled into the seat designed by Torquemada do they realize what they've done. By then, it's too late. And then: they'll bitch and moan about how miserable the flight was, only to book it again in 3 years because they see a low price.

      And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we can't have...

      Exactly! The average leisure flier is incredibly uninformed and sees only a low price which he/she jumps at. Only once buckled into the seat designed by Torquemada do they realize what they've done. By then, it's too late. And then: they'll bitch and moan about how miserable the flight was, only to book it again in 3 years because they see a low price.

      And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we can't have nice things and how we end up with a puppet who's head consists of spoiled oatmeal as POTUS.

    4. Michael Johnson Guest

      5.5: 8-abreast A330/A340

    5. Laurel Guest

      There's a lot of 9 reclining seats per row 777 left, but you have to look around for it. Delta, Singapore Air, some EVA Air and Air China planes, China Southern, Turkish, Kuwait, Asiana/Korean Air, JAL.

    6. Eskimo Guest

      @SBS

      You are ignoring the pitch. Would you still put the A380 on top in it's 850 max density?
      You are ignoring the config. Would a 2-5-2 777 still be better than a 3-3-3 seat A350?
      While you did add the A330/340 as 3.5 (also should include A300), there is also the 9 abreast version missing (also on the A300).
      You forgot the Il-96.
      And if you consider historically, the Il-86, DC-10, MD-11, L-1011, and the 2-4-3 747 is still missing.

  35. Thibault Guest

    Frenchbee/Air Caraibes (same company) is mostly operating between Paris and the French Overseas Territories. Those are very very big lines (Air France is also putting some 468 seats 77W. Air Caraïbes is also operating some very awful A330s with 3-3-3 economy seating --even worse than 3-4-3 on A350)
    They have traffic at any time of the year thanks to people visiting family/friends/relatives

    No doubt they'll make money with this horrible configuration!

    1. JW Guest

      Bingo there sir. This is something Lucky would have likely not researched or forgotten when he checked out this airline, their primary routes are the French overseas territory like Réunion Island and these planes are consistently pretty full despite it being a 10 hour trip to Paris, in fact the market is so large that even leisure carrier Corsair gets into that action

  36. Avi Guest

    Couldn’t pay me to fly this product

    1. Greg Guest

      You'll seriously not fly this if paid a million or billion?

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @Avi

      How many times have you tell other people you will never ........ again?

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

jak Member

FYI Ben, the autoplaying video in the lower right corner of every page which overlaps content is so distracting that I now exclusively use Safari's "Reader View" on your website which means I see *none* of your advertising.

5
Peter Guest

The new video widget is widespread all over the internet and absolutely horrible. I think I’m going to have a mental breakdown from them.

4
Clem Diamond

I would absolutely LOVE, LOVE to read a review of that product Lucky (change of pace from Four Seasons/Rosewood level stuff :D ).

4
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