Will the last passenger to leave everyone’s favorite airline-cum-rooftop bar please make sure to turn off the lights on the way out? It appears that Air France‘s experiment with Joon is not long for the world. New CEO Ben Smith is keen to shutter the operation according to reports. The planes and crew – more than 500 flight attendants now – will be folded back into the parent Air France operation, assuming the airline’s Board of Directors approves the move.
Joon launched as a means to reduce crew costs, specifically around the flight attendants. A long series of tense negotiations led to cabin crew approving the airline within an airline model, limited in fleet size. The newly hired flight attendants were not all keen on the deal, with some protesting recently that they were underpaid and overworked compared to their mainline colleagues. This should not have come as a surprise given that it was the entire purpose of setting up the operation, but strike threats were made and publicity for the cause garnered.
On the marketing front the company pushed Joon as millennial-focused. It was a new concept, “entirely designed to meet their requirements and aspirations, with an authentic and connected offering that stands out in the world of air transport.” Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand, expanded on that concept in July 2017 as the carrier launched operations:
We started with our target customer segment, the millennials, to create this new brand that means something to them… This generation has inspired us a lot: epicurean and connected, they are opportunistic in a positive sense of the word as they know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others. Joon is a brand that carries these values.
Except Joon never really got there. Nowhere close, really. The “epicurean” part of the offering meant upgraded food on board but also a shift to paid dining rather than complimentary. Being connected on a plane means wifi in flight and Air France dragged its feet, only just starting to equip its single-aisle fleet with wifi in the past couple months. The Joon planes were not first to receive the kit.
Over the past year the company worked to refine the millennial message, a story that sold well to anyone not really paying attention. Joon morphed into a test-bed airline where new products and services can be trialed for eventual inclusion into the bigger brand operation. Or maybe it was still just a strange off-shoot of operations targeting lower crew costs.
It was a product that created confusion among passengers, didn’t deliver the desired savings and created far more internal struggles than any such effort should build. With a new CEO in place perhaps a new plan can take shape that will better deliver for passengers, employees and the company.
And, in the meantime, the company needs to decide what to do about its first A350s that were previously destined for Joon, including a new inflight wifi service provider.
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