French bee accepts 480-seat A350

Paris-based French bee has introduced its maiden Airbus A350-1000 (pictured). The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97-equipped widebody, F-HMIX (c/n 539) – leased from Air Lease Corporation – was officially handed over by the European manufacturer on December 17, 2021 having previously made the short delivery hop from Toulouse to French bee’s Paris/Orly base.

Then, the following day, the low-cost, long-haul airline deployed the A350-1000 – which has a 97,000lb st at take-off – on the type’s first fare-paying rotation with the airline on a service to Reunion's Roland-Garros airport. Operating as Flight BF 700, F-HMIX departed the French capital at 2046hrs before touching down at the Indian Ocean gateway approximately ten-and-a-half hours later at 1016hrs local time the following morning (now December 19).

French bee Airbus A350-1000
French bee's maiden Airbus A350-1000, F-HMIX (c/n 539), accommodates 480 passengers in a two-class arrangement. Airbus

For now, their A350-1000 will exclusively ply this route – French bee currently flies between Orly and Reunion up to ten-weekly this winter. A second example of the largest XWB variant is, according to the carrier, scheduled to arrive in 2022 and is also set to operate this popular connection.

Marc Rochet, president of French bee, said: "We are very proud to receive this superb aircraft, it’s proof of our desire to always provide the best for our customers. The arrival of this new [A350-1000] also demonstrates our shareholder, the Dubreuil Group’s confidence in our company. All the French bee teams are delighted that this new [airframe] will mainly serve Reunion Island, a destination as beautiful as it is charming and where everything started for French bee.”

The cabin of F-HMIX seats 480 guests in a two-class arrangement. These comprise 40 seats up front in French bee’s ‘Premium Blue’ section with seats in a 2+4+2 configuration (eight-abreast). The remainder of the -1000 cabin features 440 seats in ‘Eco Blue’ which are laid out in a 3+4+3 setting (ten-abreast). Onboard the type, French bee will offer passengers more than 150 hours of programmes from state-of-the-art, in-flight passenger entertainment (IFE) along with full Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the cabin – according to French bee, which is an all-A350 operator, the internet connection has an “operational speed of up to 20 megabytes”. 

French bee and Air Caraïbes Airbus A350-1000s
French bee’s sister carrier, Air Caraïbes, simultaneously received another A350-1000, F-HSIS (c/n 533), at the same time F-HMIX was delivered. Airbus

While the move marks the arrival of the first -1000 for French bee, it’s in fact their fifth A350 example as they already fielded a quartet of the smaller -900 model. These consist of F-HREU (c/n 005) – a former Airbus testbed airframe – F-HREV (c/n 193), F-HREY (c/n 325) and F-HREN (c/n 433); all in a two-class, 411-seat configuration.

French bee (previously known as French blue) is a subsidiary of the Dubreuil Group – a family owned holding company based in Belleville sur Vie, France. Under the group’s airline division includes Air Caraïbes.

As a result, on the same day that French bee accepted F-HMIX – December 17 – sister carrier Air Caraïbes simultaneously received another A350-1000, F-HSIS (c/n 533) – pictured – which is also on lease from Air Lease Corporation. At the time of writing and following these latest developments, the Dubreuil Group boasts a 15-strong Airbus contingent.

According to latest figures released by the European airframer, the A350 Family orderbook stood at 913 firm commitments from 49 customers worldwide for the period ending November 2021.