The French always find a way to do everything just right from haute couture to cafe culture, so when they announced the launch of French Bee, a new low-cost airline with three flights weekly from Paris to San Francisco to Tahiti, it sounded like a glorious opportunity to discover the islands of French Polynesia. Starting at $330 from to San Francisco to Tahiti, this new offering has opened up a destination overflowing with culture, scenery and adventure previously considered inaccessible to many travelers, including myself. I was fortunate to experience the inaugural flight in person and excited to share my experience.
With three tiers of fare options available and a range of customizable options, French Bee’s most economical is The Basic, which includes a carry-on, unlike most domestic low-cost flights. Anyone planning to check luggage would be wise to opt for The Smart, which also includes a meal. For a more luxe option, roomier seating is available in The Premium cabin, which also includes two check in items (surfboards, anyone?), priority boarding and meals.
In a move more in line with a traditional carrier, French Bee’s fleet consists of brand new Airbus A350-900s, designed for ideal passenger comfort on a long haul. I was most impressed by its advanced noise isolation features, something my fellow passengers also remarked on, which helped me sleep a decent chunk of the 8 hour journey and arrive in Tahiti with minimal jet lag. The interior feels incredibly spacious, with cavernous ceilings and sizable overhead bins; light packers with a carry-on need not worry about rushing to board early. While in-flight wifi is definitely available, I chose to take advantage of this small window of time to disconnect and slow down from my daily hustle.
Both the Eco and Premium seats are equipped with HD touch screens with a ample entertainment options and USB outlets, so I was able to charge my phone for a day of adventuring while listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg and snacking on a croissant with a side of honey and French yogurt as we began the descent for a sunrise landing on Papeete.
Like everything else French, somehow they’ve manage to defy expectations and create an affordable option that compares very favorably to traditional airlines; the experience felt fresh and modern, yet with the comfort and amenities expected on an international haul. For all the Francophiles on the west coast, flights are also available to Paris (Orly) from San Francisco starting at $189 one way.
Whether you go on this jaunt or any other international journey, my first time having a sleeping mask on the plane did wonders for my rest. Between that and the draft-free air conditioning on board, I felt truly relaxed as we soared over the Pacific. Packing a generous stash of natural snacks, like date bars and dried fruit, came in handy both on the plane ride and when we were out and about on the island. Lastly, I always carry a soft shawl that can double as a scarf or blanket (or fold up into an extra pillow) if the airport or plane starts to get a little chilly. Above all, arrive ready to experience the stunning beauty of the islands and the hospitality of the Tahitians.
Photography by Natasha Lee