French Bee, the low-cost carrier out of Paris’s Orly Airport whose momentum was temporarily slowed by the pandemic, is back with a new round of long-distance flights between France, the United States, and French Polynesia at discounted fares starting at $189 one-way.
That introductory fare is for recently resumed service between San Francisco and Paris. Those flights also continue on to Tahiti; fares from San Francisco to Tahiti start at $329 one-way, and the flights operate three times a week.
In addition, French Bee is launching a new route to and from Los Angeles next spring, with fares between Orly and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) starting at $279 one-way. Tickets for the new L.A. flights went on sale last week. Starting April 9, the carrier will operate four weekly nonstop flights on the route on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, increasing to six times a week in July. Flights are aboard an Airbus A350-900, a newer version of the state-of-the-art widebody plane.
French Bee burst onto the transatlantic scene several years ago, quickly winning a following among budget-minded francophiles after starting service to San Francisco; the airline also flies from Paris to New York/New Jersey (Newark Liberty International Airport) with service on that route having relaunched over the summer.
The airline’s rock-bottom fares fall into its lowest-fare tier, which it calls “Basic” (or the equivalent of what many U.S. carriers refer to as “Basic Economy”). This fare tier comes with few frills—just one 26-pound carry-on is allowed, and no meals are included—which can be more of an issue on an ultra-long flight (the flight between L.A. and Paris is nearly 11 hours). But the airline also has a sizable “Premium Economy” fare class with a more generous baggage allowance (two 50-pound checked bags) plus free drinks and two meals. On the new LAX flights, for example, fares on the upgraded Premium service start at $661 one-way. There’s also an in-between class, labeled “Smart,” which includes one 50-pound checked bag and one inflight meal.
The Basic fare is really designed for people who are traveling extremely light because the fee for checking the first bag is $45 and for a second bag, $90. The Smart fare with one free checked bag and a meal included is likely the best in-between option.
For price-conscious travelers, the return of the French upstart is welcome news, given recent concerns about rising international airfares, especially since one of the bigger low-cost players, Norwegian, exited the transatlantic market at the start of this year.
“The introduction of lower-end carriers to the market is always good news for folks looking for cheap flights,” says Lousson Smith, product operations specialist for flight deal newsletter Scott’s Cheap Flights. Lower-cost international airlines like TAP Air Portugal, Icelandair, and French Bee “put downward pressure on fares across the board, as full-service carriers often have no choice but to price match,” says Smith, adding that consumers will occasionally find the same bargain-basement prices—at least briefly—on legacy carriers serving the same routes.
But it comes with some caveats. “Consumers should watch out for added charges, which can quickly pile up. The key with French Bee is to watch those ancillary fees for bags, meals, and other services,” says Smith. “As a traveler, make sure the all-in price you’re getting with them is comparable to their competitors.”
France’s COVID travel requirements
On September 9, France moved the United States from its “green list” to its “orange list” of countries (or “amber list” depending on which section of the French government’s website you are looking at), meaning that unvaccinated U.S. travelers are no longer allowed to travel to France other than for essential reasons.
Vaccinated travelers from the United States can continue to enter France with no additional requirements other than submitting a health declaration form. Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months can present a certificate of recovery to enter France.
Unvaccinated minors traveling from the U.S. are allowed to enter France, but those age 12 and older will have to show a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 or 48 hours, respectively, before their flight.
As of July 21, visitors now need a special COVID pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters. To get the COVID pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test, or provide proof they recently recovered from an infection.
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