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What Is It Like to Fly French Bee? Our Airline Review

The annoyances start here, with what the airline jauntily calls “Our tailored fares: travel à la carte.” Translation: We’re going to play every mind game in the book to get you to spend more than you intended.

Travelers are first shown a very low price, but that’s only for a painfully no-frills “Basic” ticket. From there, French Bee piles on the fees and upgrade options. It’s a now-common business model in the commercial airline industry, particularly among so-called low-cost carriers, but that doesn’t make the situation any less irritating when you encounter it here. 

With French Bee’s Basic category, you only get to bring on the plane one personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. If you can’t squeeze everything for your international trip into that small bag, you’ll have to either a.) layer all your clothes on your person for the flight or b.) fly to a destination where you already have a closet.

The airline’s Basic fares do not come with any luggage allowance—not checked bags, not even carry-ons. When I searched for flights from New York City to Paris, luggage was going to cost me an extra $70 per bag, which was almost exactly what upgrading from a Basic to a Smart ticket would cost anyway. (Premium fares, French Bee’s version of business class, are usually about $300–$500 more each way, though prices shift radically by date).

So a Smart booking it was. That meant I’d get one meal on the long flight across the Atlantic, as well as the privilege of checking a bag and carrying one with me. The fare did not, however, come with the ability to choose my seat—a crucial drawback since I was traveling with family members. Seat selection requires yet another fee, and, you guessed it, some seats cost more than others. So my fare ticked up again. And so did my blood pressure.

Was I still saving money compared to other airlines? Yes, definitely. But if Dante were around today, he’d assign the torture of booking tickets with a budget carrier like French Bee to at least the Fourth Circle of the Inferno. 

How was French Bee’s preflight communication?

The company is certainly more communicative about upcoming trips than some similar carriers, such as Norse Atlantic Airways, which I found to be alarmingly incommunicado at times. (Here’s my full review of that carrier.)

French Bee was proactive in giving me the details of my flight via email and letting me check in ahead of time. However, the company kept pinging me, over and over, with the request that I choose a seat—even though I’d already paid extra to do that. I’m assuming this was an effort to persuade me to upgrade my cabin category, but the ploy made me very nervous that the reservation I’d made hadn’t gone through.

It so happened that my booking was honored correctly. But I’m still holding a grudge about all those annoying emails.