The low-cost, long-haul airline French Bee has just taken delivery of a brand new Airbus A350-1000 with a claustrophobia-inducing 480 passenger seats onboard. The configuration is the very maximum permitted by law and was only approved after the aircraft manufacturer made improvements to the emergency exits to handle so many passengers.
Airbus originally designed its A350-1000 with a maximum capacity of 440 passengers but went back to the regulators to get approval for a super high-density version of the aircraft specifically to win the business of low-cost airlines like French Bee and its sister airline Air Caraïbes.
The A350-1000 is already extremely fuel-efficient but with so many seats crammed in, in this configuration it offers “unrivalled” exo-efficiency according to Airbus. As a comparison, in a three-class configuration, British Airways operates A350-1000’s with capacity for just 331 passengers, while Cathay Pacific operates its A350-100’s with 334 seats.
French Bee has managed to squeeze so many seats into the same space by opting for a high-density configuration with Economy seats arranged in a 3-4-3 layout. Most other airlines arrange Economy seats with one less seat per row so French Bee has been forced to shave around an inch off the width of most seats to fit them all in.
At the front of the aircraft, French Bee will offer a Premium Economy cabin with 40 seats. The plane will ply the widely popular route between Paris and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
The economics of the plane are suited to being able to fill the aircraft as close to capacity ever flight and this is one of the few routes that French Bee shouldn’t have any issues.
Getting to Reunion used to be incredibly expensive so travellers are willing to sacrifice comfort for the opportunity to get to the Indian Ocean for a fraction of the price that airlines used to demand.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.