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Trip Report: Frenchbee Miami Inaugural Flight
Paris, France-based Frenchbee was founded in 2016, originally under the name Frenchblue, and under the leadership of founder Marc Rochet, the airline has grown to six routes worldwide with four of them being routes from France to the United States, the fifth one being the United States to Tahiti, and the sixth route being Paris to the French Réunion Island.
The inaugural flight of their route to Miami, which this trip report is about, lines up with the delivery of the airline’s second Airbus A350-1000 which will initially be used on routes to Réunion. The new flight from Miami to Paris-Orly began on Dec. 15, 2022 and will operate three times a week on board the carrier’s 411-seat Airbus A350-900. The airline hopes to attract more leisure travelers as their chosen hub airport, Paris-Orly, is closer to downtown and Paris landmarks than the much larger Charles De Gaulle.
Day of the Flight
On the morning of the flight, I was coming from another airport within south Florida so I arrived much earlier than most would. I arrived roughly five hours before the 9 P.M. departure time. Frenchbee passengers should enter through door 13 in Terminal E at Miami Intl. and have a check-in area near JetBlue, Cayman Airways, Surinam Airways, and Royal Air Maroc.
The check-in area opens at 5 p.m., four hours before the flight is scheduled to depart, and I would also like to note that they have a strict cutoff for check-in and the counters close 1hr and 30min before the flight departs. Since I arrived before the counter opened there weren’t any agents yet, but they did have self-service check-in kiosks that do work if you are not checking any bags.
Another thing to note, Frenchbee still doesn’t participate in the TSA PreCheck program, meaning you’ll have to leave yourself some extra time to get through security as the lines do get rather long when multiple international flights are scheduled to depart at once.
For my flight they used gate F15, which is located in terminal F and houses mostly international flights. The ‘F gate’ area was nice and had plenty of seats for passengers even when Frenchbee would have a full load of 411 going out on their flight.
At this point the flight was still a while out, I took the time to eat and relax before the crowds started to flock to the gate. But, it didn’t take long for the airport to start setting up the banners and podium for the party and speeches that were to come later on.
As it was an international flight on a large aircraft, the plane was scheduled to arrive at the airport two hours before the departure. My aircraft pulled into the gate just after 7 p.m., an Airbus A350-900 that was delivered directly to Frenchbee in March of 2018 and carried the registration F-HREV.
After the aircraft pulled up to the gate it was easy to see the massive size of the aircraft with people near the nose gear for comparison. The captain of the flight even gave me a heart through the front window on arrival before getting off, which was a nice AvGeek picture to get.
After a while, local press and dignitaries started showing up for the speeches and events of the evening. There were speeches given by Greg Chin, the Communications Director of MIA; Rafael (Ralph) Cutié, the director and CEO of MIA; Thomas Renault, the head of sales for Frenchbee in North America; and Raphaël Jean Claude Trapp the Consul General of France in Miami.
Following the speeches, there was a ribbon cutting, which was performed by the people mentioned above as well as Basil Binns II who is the MIA Deputy Director. Unfortunately, unlike the other inaugural flights I have been on, I was unable to grab a piece of the ribbon which was a little disappointing, but I was still glad I got to see it occur.
After the ribbon cutting, passengers were invited to partake in the celebrations and goodies, which included coconut macaroons, Frenchbee branded reusable straws, ‘Miami Beaches’ bags, Coffee, water, and Orangina which is a sparkling citrus beverage.
There were a fair number of press and media members on the flight as well as some AvGeeks, including one person who was flying around the world and this was their first leg. Thankfully the other AvGeeks loved these types of events like I do and were willing to take a picture of me in front of the banner near the podium as long as I would do the same for them.
The boarding of the flight was delayed due to a security search of the plane, which is required before every international departure, so it is good they were taking their time to do this as if it were done wrong it would have to start all over again. Prior to the normal boarding process, I was invited to get on a little early in order to get some pictures of the passenger cabin before it was filled with people.
Frenchbee’s Airbus A350-900 holds 411 passengers, 376 in the main cabin in a 3-4-3 configuration and 35 seats in their premium cabin which they call ‘premium blue’.
Every seat came equipped with power outlets and an IFE screen, perfect for flights as the airlines shortest flight is still over six-hours long.
The ‘Premiumblue’ cabin contained 35 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration, the seats were very well padded and had a pillow and blanket waiting for us. For this flight across the Pond, I was seated in 7K, a window in the Premiumblue cabin.
Also waiting at the premium seats was a bottle of water. For each IFE screen you could choose what language you wanted it to be in: English, French, or Spanish. The IFE included many movies and tv shows in multiple languages, as well as a tail camera which at night doesn’t leave much to see, but it was still cool.
Prior to pushback they offered premium passengers either orange juice or champagne, and figuring it was going to be a long night I opted for no alcohol. They also handed out amenity kits which included items from mini travel toothpaste to socks and an eye mask. Almost everything in the kit had the Frenchbee logo on it, which meant more AvGeek items to take away from the trip and save for a future date.
Both cabins were relatively full, with 28 out of 35 seats filled in premium and 324 out of 376 in the main cabin. 352 out of 411 overall meaning the flight had an 85% load factor which is quite good considering it isthe very first flight, and I do expect the flight to be close to full, especially during the winter months.
Pushback came quickly and the crew thanked us for being a part of this inaugural flight, we did end up leaving almost 1.5 hours late due to the security search and celebrations at the gate, but that’s not a huge deal and the agents and crew kept everyone informed.
Takeoff was quick and easy, and we rocketed into the skies for the flight across the pond.
Taking off was pretty spectacular at night seeing all of the lights in south Florida shining, but slowly the lights started disappearing as we got further from the coast into the Atlantic Ocean. About 20 minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants came around and gave everyone a towel to get ready for the meal service.
Shortly after the hot towel, each of us was given a light snack of ‘scrocchi con semi di sesamo’, which translates from Italian to English as ‘crackers with sesame seeds’. Next was the dinner service which occurred about one hour after takeoff.
Dinner consisted of two choices, a chicken or a fish plate. They do offer vegan, kosher, and other special types of meals but must be pre-selected ahead of time on their website. I chose the chicken dinner option, which was “chicken with rice and beans” for the main course, a salad plate with tomatoes, olives, lettuce and cream cheese, and other items included bread, banana bread, strawberry with brie, and coconut chocolate for the desert.
They let everyone enjoy their dinners for a while before they started to clean up the dishes and did a final tea and drink service before settling in for the night. By this time they had turned the cabin lights to a light blue and orange mimicking a setting sun to get everyone in the mood for sleep.
Finally, 2-hours after takeoff they turned off the cabin lights and told everyone to close their window shades for the overnight section of the flight. I took out my eye mask,and blanket and got some rest for the busy day ahead of me when I landed in Paris.
I woke up after 4.5 solid hours of sleep later, the most sleep I’ve ever gotten on a redeye flight and I definitely felt more relaxed and refreshed being in the cabin of an Airbus A350 versus older aircraft. This is due to the cabin being set at a lower altitude, better air ventilation, and higher humidity in the cabin. By this point there was only 1.5 hours left on the flight.
The rest of the cabin slowly began waking up as they brought out breakfast. The breakfast consisted of bread, raspberry spread, a croissant, and a Chobani yogurt. With the sunlight showing, it was now easy to see below from our 41,000-foot cruising altitude.
It wasn’t long before the coast of France was visible from the window.
People continued to wake up and we began our slow descent into Paris. With not enough time to watch a movie, I decided to stare out the window and admire the scenery as we approached our destination.
The cabin crew cleaned up the cabin and everyone put their seats upright, just before landing in Paris the clouds rolled in and there was a low cloud layer surrounding the airport which looked cool.
We touched down at Paris-Orly at 12:28 p.m. after 8 hours, 2-minutes of flight time. It was a great flight and definitely didn’t feel like a low-cost carrier given the abundance of food and drink options we were given. The flight also went by relatively fast in my opinion and I spent most of the time either sleeping, eating, or looking out the window, I didn’t even get a chance to browse through the movie or television options.
In Orly, another AvGeeky aspect is that we deplaned using stairs and boarded a bus to the terminal, something I have never done on a widebody aircraft before and was certainly fun seeing the plane’s massive size from the ground.
Reflecting back on the flight, it was very pleasant and featured multiple AvGeek aspects from the inaugural celebration and the deplaning in Paris, to the amenity kits and headrests on the plane. You can definitely tell the difference from a passenger perspective between the Airbus A350 and older long-haul planes, especially on overnight flights like this as you land feeling much better and well-adjusted to the timezones.
From here I went to Frenchbee’s headquarters near the airport and had the privilege of interviewing the founder, chairperson, and CEO of Frenchbee, Marc Rochet, but that is for another article, which will be posted in the next week or two.
A video account of this trip can be found below
- Advanced Air Modifies and Expands Route Network - January 22, 2023
- Interview: French Bee Founder and CEO Marc Rochet on Airline’s Business Model and Competition - January 19, 2023
- Trip Report: Frenchbee Miami Inaugural Flight - January 1, 2023
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