Spring is coming and after reading through Frenchly’s travel section of Frenchly, you’ll want to book flights to France immediately. So many airlines now offer easy, pain free packages to discover the land of Edith Piaf, Paul Bocuse and Daft Punk, that it can be confusing to figure out what your best option is. Here is everything you need to know to book your next trip.
Fly Direct to France
If you can afford it, consider flying direct: not only is it good for the environment as it lowers the carbon footprint of your trip, it is also a lot less stressful in case of flight delays. If flying direct is not an option for you, did you know that more and more travelers are combining a trip to France with an exploratory layover in Iceland? The low-cost airline, Play and its national cousin, Icelandair, both offer layovers (as short as a few hours and as long as a few days) in Reykjavik on your way to Paris. Another way to score great deals on flights is Going, formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights, where people can become members and receive alerts on cheap tickets. Right now, they have deals for as low as $297 from the US to Paris!
Flights to Paris
Most major airlines (like Air France, Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui, Norwegian, and Aer Lingus) fly direct to Paris Charles de Gaulle, which French people refer to as “Roissy.” Roissy is the second busiest airport in Europe, averaging 70 million passengers a year. It is located north of Paris, and about 16 miles away from the City of Lights. It has its own train station with access to the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse, the high speed train from SNCF) which will take you directly to other cities worth exploring, like Lille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, or Marseille. If you are interested in exploring more of Europe and enjoy the flexibility of traveling by train, consider getting an Eurail Pass (starting at 185 euros).
French airlines French Bee and La Compagnie also offer flights to Paris Orly, located south of Paris, which is a bit closer to the city, and less busy than Charles de Gaulle. Orly airport was built before Roissy and quickly became the place to be for Parisians in the 80s; people would come just for lunch on the terrace and to watch planes take off and land. When taking a cab from Orly into central Paris, most cabs charge a flat rate. It’ll cost you 55 euros from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, and 35 from Orly.
Are you interested in learning more about the history behind the Paris airports? I personally loved listening to “Aéroports : ce que racontent les murs,” a recent 6-episode podcast series, which takes you on a truly fascinating journey through time and flying in France. Here is a link to the podcast (in French).
Flying into Nice
If you’re planning on exploring the French Riviera, you might want to consider flying Delta or United Airlines, as they offer direct flights between New York and Nice in the summer.
According to Kayak, the cheapest month to fly to France is March, and the cheapest day is Monday. When it comes to choosing your dates, Hopper.com, an app that predicts flight prices over time and recommends when to purchase, suggests flying into Paris on a Wednesday. If you can, avoid Friday and Saturday as they tend to be more expensive, and security screening lines can be very long.
Flight Routes to Paris
Air France is the airline with the most direct flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle from the US (Boston, JFK, Atlanta, Washington DC, Miami, Detroit, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle). While most flights to France from the US are direct to Charles de Gaulle, Delta also offers a summer flight between New York and Nice, in the South of France. La Compagnie, the Business Class-only airline, also offers flights to Paris and Nice from New York. United and American airlines also offer direct flights to France.
Finally, JetBlue has announced that it will offer daily flights to Paris as of June 2023 from New York, and will add flights from Boston shortly after (date TBD). Tickets from New York are already on sale.
Cost & Loyalty Programs for French Airlines
The cheapest options are French Bee (San Francisco to Paris starting at $900 RT), La Compagnie (New York to Paris starting at $1,500 RT) and Air Tahiti Nui (Los Angeles to Paris starting at $755 RT). Jetblue has introductory fares for its new direct flights from New York to Paris starting around $1,200 RT.
Delta’s loyalty program (Skymiles) is a partner of Air France-KLM’s Flying Blue program. This means flying with one allows you to score points with the other. Another collaboration to look out for is Star Alliance, which includes airlines like United Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Air Canada, to name a few. Finally, American Airlines’ loyalty program, OneWorld, partners with British Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, and even JetBlue. Something to keep in mind as you book is that you may have to fly with one airline outbound, and another on the way back.
Jetblue offers “family pooling,” which allows you to pool your hard earned points between family members. This has allowed me to go on trips for close to zero dollars after taking a family trip elsewhere, as I was able to use all of my family’s points (sorry, mom).
French Airlines with the Best Food & Drink
To me, Air France is the clear winner of this category. Like the bulk of French folks, the airline takes food *very* seriously. You’ll experience a four-course meal even in economy. It’s not a Michelin restaurant, but it is decent, and the desserts are typically pretty good! In Premium Economy and Business, the menus are delicious and even more typical of French gastronomy: you may be lucky and get duck confit, macarons, and even foie gras. Of course they also serve wine and liquor, and you will be served champagne (for free) wherever you sit on the aircraft.
You’ll get free hot meals (typically dinner upon leaving the US and breakfast an hour or two before landing overseas) with Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue. On JetBlue, you will even have the opportunity to build your own menu (even in Economy) using your in-flight screen. On La Compagnie, flights leaving from New York offer a light dinner that includes a salad, a soup, a cheese plate, and a dessert, but you will be served a 4-course menu when you leave from Paris. If you are traveling with French Bee, note that meals are not included with all fares (only with Smart and Premium). I have personally never flown Turkish Airlines, but if you don’t mind a detour in order to score cheap tickets to Europe, you may be in for a treat as the airline has their own chefs onboard.
Be aware that if you need special accommodation (food allergy, special diet) you must call the airline at least 72 hours before your flight for them to be able to accommodate you.
Entertainment on board
Nowadays, most major airlines offer free entertainment on board like films and TV shows. Except, that is, for Play Airlines, which does not offer any in-flight entertainment. When I fly back home to France, I like to fly with Air France to get caught up on French movies that never make it to American movie theaters.
On Air France, your kiddo will get a special meal and toys to keep them busy on their flight. On all major airlines, you can check a stroller and/or a carseat for free. I personally am on “team carseat for life,” so I pull my 4-year-old’s carseat on a telescopic cart (which folds to the size of a letter) and have him sit in it during the flight. If you want to do that, make sure your car seat is approved by the FAA for flying (you’ll find an airplane sticker on the side of it if it is).
Fear of flying
I am a nervous flier. Air France is the only airline that takes my fear seriously. All personnel aboard are trained to help passengers with anxiety. They also have an amazing flight training program in Paris (Orly airport) during which you can meet captains, flight attendants, psychologists, and even sit on the flight simulator. I took that training 18 months ago and it turned out to be so useful. A few tips on that here (in French). Other airlines offer a fear of flying course: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet.
Wifi onboard makes a big difference on long flights! On Delta, La Compagnie, Air France, United, and American Airlines, you’ll be able to text for free (using iMessage or WhatsApp), but if you need more access, you can purchase a Wifi pass. On French Bee and Air Tahiti Nui, there is no free Wifi option, but there are several data packages available for purchase.
Leg room & overall comfort
Most airlines do operate a wide variety of aircrafts, and legroom per seat varies with the type of plane. For domestic flights in the US, Jetblue is the winner of this category. Although La Compagnie, which operates flights between New York and France and does not offer economy seats nor middle seats, is pretty high in the ranking! Here is a breakdown of the average legroom per seat for each airline:
- Jetblue Airways: 32-34 inches
- Air France: 32 inches in Economy, 38 inches in Premium Economy
- Delta: 30-32 inches
- French Bee: 32 inches
- American Airlines: 31 inches
- United Airlines: 31 inches
- Air Tahiti Nui : 31 inches in Economy, 38 in Premium Economy
- La Compagnie: N/A
Anne-Fleur Andrle is a Colorado-based freelance writer and podcast producer. She hosts and produces a French Morning show called French Expat, where she documents the journeys of French-speaking expats around the world. She is so passionate about podcasts that she created a podcast about it, called Génération Podcast, and has a weekly curated newsletter with podcasts that she thinks are not to miss.