MILAN – On Wednesday, French bee operated its maiden flight from Paris Orly airport (ORY) to Newark (EWR). Joining San Francisco (SFO), New Jersey becomes the second U.S destination of the French airline which will be served three-weekly with fares starting at $139 one-way (French bee, 2021).
French bee has found its key to success in the low-cost leisure model (“friends and family airline”). The carrier, which currently flies four Airbus A350-900s, offers long-haul flights at affordable prices. The A350s in use are configured with 35 premium seats and 376 economy seats.
An A350-1000 is expected to be delivered throughout this year, accommodating 488 passengers, 40 in premium economy, and 448 in economy class (Perry, 2020).
“Being the first affordable nonstop route option from Newark to Paris-Orly, we are convinced that price remains a decisive factor. Thanks to our model and the unrivaled performance of our A350- 900 fleet, we are able to offer flights at extremely competitive prices,” said Marc Rochet, Chief Executive Officer at French bee.
In addition to the two U.S. destinations, Paris-Orly based airline operates flights to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Tahiti (French Polynesia), and Saint-Denis (Réunion).
Since French bee began its expansion in 2018, other airlines have lost their primacy on the market, such as Air Tahiti Nui which has been greatly affected by the arrival of highly competitive operators.
In 2017, Polynesia’s flag carrier had a 65.5% share on the Charles De Gaulle (CDG) – Papeete (PPT) route. In 2018, with the arrival of French bee – from Orly with a stop in San Francisco – and United from San Francisco, the share of Air Tahiti Nui dropped to 61.2% and in 2019 to 48.3% with French bee at second place with 12.4% (Air Tahiti Nui, 2017-19).
Cirium schedules data shows that the only direct competitor on French bee’s new ORY-EWR route is the business operator La Compagnie. The boutique airline has a fleet of two A321neos in a 76-seat all-business configuration.
Apparently, the two carriers have nothing in common, but they could find themselves competing as La Compagnie’s model is sustainable. Instead of operating large long-haul aircraft, the French airline has decided to invest in a modern small narrow-body jet. La Compagnie can offer reasonable rates in view of the relatively low operating costs, especially considering the high standard of service (Cirium, 2021).
Among indirect competitors, Cirium says, United operates a daily flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Newark with a Boeing 787-10. While the busiest route to the Big Apple is CDG-JFK disputed by Air France, Delta, and American Airlines (Cirium, 2021).
We tried to book a round-trip ORY-EWR with French bee from 4 to 12 September. The total cost in economy class is $379. However, the basic fare doesn’t include meals ($25) and the checked baggage (first at $45).
The flight CDG-EWR operated by United on the same dates in basic economy $414, which doesn’t include the checked bag. A slight difference that leads to an inevitable competition.
An exclusive interview with French bee is to follow on AviationSource soon!
- Air Tahiti Nui. (2017). Annual Report 2017. https://www.airtahitinui.com/sites/default/files/docs/atn-annualreport2017.pdf
- Air Tahiti Nui. (2018). Annual Report 2018. https://www.airtahitinui.com/sites/default/files/docs/atn-annualreport2018.pdf
- Air Tahiti Nui. (2019). Annual Report 2019. https://www.airtahitinui.com/sites/default/files/docs/atn-annualreport2019.pdf
- Cirium. (2021). www.cirium.com
- French bee. (2021). French bee Announces Nonstop New York to Paris Route. Press release. https://www.frenchbee.com/sites/default/files/2021-07/210630_NYC_route-launch_Frenchbee_US.pdf
- Perry, D. (2020). French Bee eyes arrival of A350-1000s, as pandemic fails to dent optimism. https://www.flightglobal.com/airlines/french-bee-eyes-arrival-of-a350-1000s-as-pandemic-fails-to-dent-optimism/140153.article