On Wednesday afternoon the Air France experiment known as Joon officially ceased operations. A dozen routes were flown on the final day; a few other wrapped up in the week prior. Reading the post-mortem analysis suggests that Joon’s failure can be attributed to misguided marketing. Alas, marketing was never the problem for Joon. Neither were millennials. As with nearly everything, money – specifically costs – brought about the end of the operation.
The on-board experience for Joon’s long-haul operations compared well enough to the rest of the market. It was never the best product in the sky but the seats, inflight entertainment systems and other features all worked well enough. Other than the flight attendant uniforms it might be hard to tell that it was a Joon trip rather than Air France.
In the short-haul markets the product differed more. Snacks were hyped as better quality, with organic options available. They were also sold to passengers rather than included in the fare, a shift for Air France’s customers. That mixed passenger experience was a marketing problem and an execution problem, not an audience problem. In April 2018 the company admitted it was “working on messaging” around those inconsistencies. Whatever work it performed failed to generate a distinct message.
The Joon A320s were some of the first to be retrofitted with in-seat USB power – millennials love power, right!?! – but that was a small benefit that should’ve been deployed more broadly and more quickly across the full fleet, not just a subset. And the inflight wifi connectivity project rollout did not favor the Joon fleet when it finally began.
The company also teased further tweaks and tests to its offerings, presenting Joon as something of a laboratory environment for its marketing and product teams. Want to learn if passengers will pay for snacks on board? Run the test on Joon! Will some travelers pay extra for a one-time lounge pass? Email some Joon customers to find out! Of course, these same experiments could be run within the Air France brand on specific routes or on a broader basis. Spreading them around would likely deliver more meaningful results for the data samples. But faced with the random brand that never really fit in the overall operations plan, Joon became the playground for such things.
Read More: Au revoir, Joon; we hardly knew you
Behind the scenes, pushing aside all the talk of millennial-this and testbed-that the true goal was far more basic: Air France needed to cut costs and chose the Joon brand as its way forward on that front. Except the cost-cutting efforts never really played out. Pilots were still paid on the standard Air France union scale. Flight attendants took a trim on their wages, only to threaten industrial action to restore the pay cuts shortly after the operation ramped up. An airline’s three main costs are aircraft, fuel and crew. None of those decreased by an appreciable measure with the Joon operation. Yes, Joon failed. But it failed economically because it failed to cut costs. And all the millennial marketing hoopla was just noise trying to distract from its execution challenges at the core of the operation.
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. – Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand
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. It was doomed from the beginning. And now it is gone. A rooftop bar that couldn’t survive in the cutthroat world of aviation.