French Bee will shortly receive a 488-seat A350, which will be the most efficient long-haul aircraft in the world. I’m not sure if this is an incredible feat or just sounds terrible.
The French Bee A350-1000 has 488 seats
French Bee is an affordable long-haul airline that started operations in 2016. The airline has operated flights from Paris Orly to Tahiti (via San Francisco) and Reunion in the past. In the coming months, the airline is also expected to start a flight from Paris to Newark.
French bee routes
French Bee currently operates a fleet of four A350-900s. Later this year, the airline’s fleet will grow as two more A350s are delivered. However, the last two A350s will be the larger version of the aircraft, namely the A350-1000.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is how many seats the plane will have. The French Bee A350-1000 will have a total of 488 seats, including 40 premium economy seats and 448 economy seats.
To be clear, this is not disproportionate for French Bee’s current A350-900s, which have 411 seats, including 35 premium economy seats and 376 economy seats. Rather, it is just the sheer number of seats we are talking about that is remarkable here.
French bee A350 Premium Economy
Just to compare this to a few other airlines that operate the A350-1000:
French bee A350 economy
The French Bee A350-1000 is likely to be the world’s most affordable long-haul aircraft in terms of operating costs per seat. The A350 is incredibly fuel efficient at first. In addition, no airline has installed as many seats in a twin-engine long-haul aircraft (All Nippon Airways has 514 seats in the 777-300, but these are specifically used for short-haul domestic flights).
To put this into context, Virgin Atlantic operated a 747-400 in a recreational configuration with only 14 business class seats and “only” 455 total seats. And the economy of the 747-400 is much worse than that of the A350-1000.
Does such a dense plane make sense?
I am intrigued by the French Bee A350-1000 and have some conflicting thoughts here. Historically, the low-cost airline’s long haul business model just doesn’t work. Just ask Norwegian. Could it be different?
- The configuration of French Bee is much more efficient than that of other long haul airlines and the operating costs per seat must be extremely low here. For example, these planes will have 150 more seats than the Norwegian 787-9
- At the same time, this efficiency is only worth something if the airline can consistently occupy these seats
- The question that arises is how many times French Bee can actually sell almost all of these 488 seats. The airline has the advantage of operating in markets with different seasons, but I still don’t see this work that well in winter (due to a lack of school holidays etc).
- While many passengers are willing to forego comfort in order to save money, French Bee offers some ridiculously long flights, like the nearly 24-hour journey from Paris to Tahiti. Are passengers willing to submit to this (including 10 seats side by side) if the price is right?
- If the airline cannot consistently occupy these seats, it would make more sense for the airline to offer different types of seating products so that the airline can generate more revenue per passenger. For example, the airline could also offer flat beds, and that would interest a whole new crowd for the airline’s flying
For me this will be a very interesting plane.
The upcoming French Bee A350-1000s are likely to be the most efficient long-haul aircraft in the world in terms of operating costs per seat. While that sounds great in theory, one has to wonder if they can achieve load factors that make this worthwhile. Comfort aside, getting on a non-double-decker with 487 other passengers just doesn’t sound funny, and that doesn’t say anything about the flight experience.
What do you think of the French Bee A350-1000 – brilliant or terrible?