Skift Take

Air France might need a low-cost airline. That part makes sense. But why is it trying so hard to attract millennials? Just offer cheap fares and reasonable service, and young people will fly your airline.

With a buzzword-filled press release buzzwords and a cliched video, Air France introduced its new low-fare branded targeted at millennial travelers on Monday, hoping it will help it compete against upstarts like Norwegian Air and similar airlines-within-airlines such as Level, owned by British Airways’ parent company.

Air France’s entrant, called Joon, will begin flying in December from Paris to Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Porto. It will fly long haul next summer to Fortaleza in Brazil and Mahé in the Seychelles. By 2020, Joon should have 28 aircraft, including 10 long-haul Airbus jets, so it should announce further expansion soon.

What Air France is trying is not a new concept. Several carriers have launched airlines-within-airlines in the past two decades to try to thwart competitors and attract new market segments. And though many have failed — United Airlines once created a carrier called “Ted” with hipper branding, while Delta Air Lines did something similar with Song — some recent attempts have been reasonably successful.

In 2013, Air Canada launched Rouge, using it to compete with low-cost-carriers within North America and to Europe. Its cabin crew are paid less than Air Canada’s, and its flight attendants wear trendy hats.

Earlier this year, International Airlines Group, or IAG, owner of British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, created a low-cost airline called Level flying long-haul routes from Barcelona to Oakland, Los Angeles and other destinations. At a conference this week, Willie Walsh, IAG’s CEO, said Level was attracting customers who might not have flown the company’s airlines before.

Often, the brands help a legacy carrier make money in markets that might not support regular flights from a full-service airline with high costs.

Obsessed with Being Cool

Big airlines often try to position the new entry as cooler than the parent brand. But in its vigor to attract new customers, Air France is taking its Joon’s branding strategy further than most legacy carriers.

In its release Monday, it said, “Joon is a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant … and Joon does flying too!”

It’s a fancy way of saying Joon will be like most other low-cost airline, including Norwegian, which flies to New York and Los Angeles from Paris. Its major difference will come with its business class cabin, as many low-cost airlines only have economy and premium economy.

Joon’s “rooftop bar” will come economy class, where it’ll charge for food though it promises 60 “tasty treats,” about a third of which will be organic. Sodas, beer and wine will cost money, but water, juices, coffee and tea will be free.

Its “entertainment channel” will be called “YouJoon.” Planes will not have seatback screens, but passengers may stream movies and television programs from onboard server to their phones, tablets and laptops.

As for being a “personal assistant,” Air France said Joon will have several partnerships with other travel companies, including Airbnb Experiences. Passengers may book tours at their destinations using the platform.

The fashion element, meanwhile, comes from flight attendant uniforms. “The uniform is made up of classic and modern garments, with slimline trousers, sneakers, redesigned sailor stripes and a sleeveless quilted jacket,” the airline said.

In a blog post in July, Brett Snyder, an industry analyst, said he doubts Joon will be successful. One problem, he said, is that Joon likely will take over routes that have not been profitable for Air France. But Snyder said he’s not sure the new brand will have more luck.

“Words cannot describe how much I hate this entire thing from start to finish,” he said. “Air France appears to have just given up and told a group of clueless consultants to do whatever they wanted. The end result is an airline with a highly questionable business plan… but one with a ‘punchy’ name.”

Here’s the video Air France produced to celebrate what it calls its “Little Sister.”


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Tags: air france, International Airlines Group, joon, low-cost carriers, norwegian air

Photo credit: Air France seeks to market to millennials with a new low-fare airline called Joon. Joon

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