Bonjour, Joon. What the heck are you doing here??


Just earlier this week Air France secured the final union approvals to launch its new “Boost” airline-within-an-airline operation. Today the name and branding were introduced. Say bonjour to Joon, the new Air France brand that will begin flying mid-haul flights out of Air France’s Paris-CDG hub in Autumn 2018 2017.

Here’s how the company describes the new brand:

Joon is especially aimed at a young working clientele, the millennials (18 to 35 year-olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology. This new brand has been entirely designed to meet their requirements and aspirations, with an authentic and connected offering that stands out in the world of air transport.

Joon will not be a low-cost airline as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France.

The focus on the millennial market translates into how the carrier intends to fit its planes and deliver on product. Details on those aspects remain under wraps for now – we should know more in September – but it is safe to assume that inflight connectivity is part of the plan based on comments from Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand, in the announcement today.

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.

So the new carrier will not be the traditional Air France nor will it be an LCC. Jean-Marc Janaillac, Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM, stated that during a presentation at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cancun in early June and it was reiterated again in the product announcement today. But what really is the goal of the operation with some 28 aircraft (10 long-haul, 18 short-haul) expected to be flying as Joon by 2020?

I'm pretty sure these are renderings of the Flight Attendant uniforms for Air France's new Joon "little sister" airline
I’m pretty sure these are renderings of the Flight Attendant uniforms for Air France’s new Joon “little sister” airline

In June Janaillac indicated, “Boost will be dedicated to feed the hub at CDG.” In today’s release the company says, “In the Air France-KLM Group’s brand portfolio, Joon is Air France’s complementary younger sister, which will also inspire its customers to travel with its elder sibling.” But that’s not really the whole story.

I have no doubt that the flights and schedules will mesh with the legacy Air France offering. Some destinations will become Joon routes while others will remain Air France. But if the goal is connecting flow then the split personality makes no sense at all. Passengers rarely want a single trip from the same company with multiple different branding experiences along the way. Is there an expectation that passengers will purposefully book to a specific destination because the brand or in-flight product differs from its “elder sibling” rather than because that’s where they want to go?

Joon is about regaining share lost to LCCs and to Gulf carriers.

It will be a hub-and-spoke operation and participate in the existing Air France hub-and-spoke flows. It will benefit from the hub advantages Air France has at CDG today. It will help cut costs and add destinations to the route map. Naturally some of the passengers will mix across the two. But that’s because flights will be sold in an integrated manner, not because customers will be “inspired” for such.

Many of the changes coming with the Joon product are things passengers throughout the Air France operation would likely benefit from. Inflight connectivity, for example, is not something that only millennials find useful and convenient. An updated take on dining could mean more buy-on-board – typically a tough sell on mid/long-haul flights that are non-LCC – or a change towards a more modern dining experience, akin to the “Marché de Jean Imbert” a la carte menu coach passengers can pay extra for today. Entertainment could be a mix of streaming content to phones/tablets and, at least for long-haul, in-seat screens. Or maybe something else; that segment of the market is evolving at a rapid (by airline standards) pace in response to LCCs. We’re incredibly unlikely to see a first class cabin on the Joon A350s (maybe that’s already confirmed but I don’t recall seeing it yet). And Air France is already flying some of its 777s in that layout (no, not the CIO ones that were always more crowded). Again, something that makes sense to the larger fleet, not just the Joon operation.

Pretending this move is about millennials and not about cutting costs or shifting the overall product to where the market sits seems slightly disingenuous to me. So does claiming it is about building feed. Especially when the opportunity to modernize the entire operation is ripe for the taking.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

48 Comments

  1. Call me a jaded Gen-Xer, but what the hell? It’s not like 20 years ago there were airlines and hotels creating new brands to cater to our business. When we traveled, we flew the same airlines and stayed in the same hotels everyone else did – and we liked it. 🙂

    1. I do believe that there are ways brands can appeal to different types of travelers (or consumers in any other industry). And that can be useful. But running an airline within an airline has historically proven a spectacular way to burn cash and I see no reason this will be any different.

      Also, get off my lawn.

    2. If these distinctive features are so great, why not put them in the main airline? As another cynical Xer I have to wonder if you’re having to choose between different kinds of embarrassing cheapness to get the additional stuff you want.

    1. I worry you might be right on that.

      I’m pretty sure I know, and I’m also not so sure it is a great play. We’ll see in a few years.

    1. I do not expect it to be all-economy. I also do not expect that it will have a first class product. It is “not an LCC” so I’m predicting biz/premium/economy as the three cabins on board.

      The SkyTeam question is an interesting one. I can see why they’d want to save on costs and not participate – only FlyingBlue if possible – but with the A340/A350s doing long-haul routes it becomes a question of overlap with JVs and how to share.

  2. Looks like they hired one of those millennials they are targeting to do that crappy video! So how will this be an airline targeted at millennials? Offer cheaper or free wi-fi and call it a day while offering the same service and charging the same price?

    1. In Europe offering wifi at all – forget the price – is borderline revolutionary.

      And I doubt any connectivity offered will be free.

      1. That actually could be a possibility. ViaSat 3 is going up in mid 2019 for Europe I believe. It will offer extremely low cost gig internet to planes. JetBlue and AA 737MAX’s are already using ViaSat’s North American services. Not sure if AirFrance will go that route, but it is economically feasible.

        1. Waiting 3+ years (and betting on ViaSat3(b) in Europe live earlier than that is a losing proposition IMO) to have connectivity would be a massive mistake on the part of the company. If Joon wants Ka-band wifi there’s already a Eutelsat satellite in orbit and ViaSat can provision services on it; EL AL is a customer today while SAS and Finnair will be soon.

          Also, only Virgin America (10 planes), JetBlue (full fleet) and United (737s + 12 753s) are live on ViaSat in North America right now. AA’s 737MAX aren’t built/delivered yet and the other AA retrofits have not entered service that I’m aware of.

          1. ViaSat built the internals for the new Iridium constellation that’s going up right now. I’m not sure but there could be some commonality in the antenna packages. That’s evidenced in some commentary about their JV with Eutelsat “Once launched, ViaSat 2’s coverage includes not only the Americas and Caribbean, but also a bridge with Eutelsat to the U.K. and Europe for high-speed In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) and other mobile services. Dankberg said ViaSat 2’s projected in-service date is Q1 2018. Furthermore, the terminals for ViaSat 2 will be forward compatible with ViaSat 3” If the equipment is compatible, and Joon’s launch date is met at Q3/4 2018, a contract with EutelSat might be convertible into ViaSat 3 in the long term.

            Short term, you’re absolutely correct. Waiting exclusively on ViaSat 3 is a losing proposition. I do hope that the cost is marginal enough that WiFi will be free on an increasing number of planes in the future as new constellations come online.

          2. The Iridium NEXT constellation is not broadband and also not Ka-band. No commonality is expected between Iridium GX (Ka-band) and and of the ViaSat systems. Best I can tell neither party wants any interoperability there. At best the antenna and radome could be repurposed with new modems and other on-board hardware. And the Eutelsat commonality is what I mentioned before with SAS/Finnair/EL AL.

            Joon launch date is Q3/Q4 2017, not 2018. I do not expect that the first A321s will have wifi when they enter service but they also won’t wait for ViaSat3. And the only bridge they need if AF chooses the ViaSat option is readily available today with the Eutelsat hardware in orbit, the same kit SK/AY/LY already chose.

          3. On the launch date, I was just basing that off your article, “Just earlier this week Air France secured the final union approvals to launch its new “Boost” airline-within-an-airline operation. Today the name and branding were introduced. Say bonjour to Joon, the new Air France brand that will begin flying mid-haul flights out of Air France’s Paris-CDG hub in Autumn 2018.”

            Secondly, I think you’d be quite good at equity research if you ever lose the travel bug.

          4. Ok, now I get where you’re coming from on the satellites a lot more. I haven’t kept up too much since I stopped covering satellite companies at the end of last summer.

    1. I thought that when large airlines do this to go after LCCs, the “new company” is not subject to the same union agreements as the mother airline, so they can use less-senior pilots/crew and pay them lower wages and hence do a better job matching the LCC fares … no?

    2. Yes, the union rules matter. In this case though, it is the same unions with approval to work under different rules. Approval from the pilots’ union came this week. FAs approved it last week IIRC.

      And running two-tier contracts have a habit of pissing off employees. Just look at BA’s current streak of strike experiences with the “mixed fleet” crews that work under different contracts than the original BA union crews.

    1. I think there was an onion article right around the start of Ted, where Del (Delta), Ric (American), and Al (Continental) were being introduced as playmates to Ted.

    1. None of the planes in the Air France fleet have wifi today. The long-haul fleet is committed to Gogo’s 2Ku service so that can work gate-to-gate, assuming regulatory approval. Of course, I have no idea if they’ll install it on the A340s planned to be retired in just a couple years; that’s an expensive proposition.

      On short-haul AF/KLM is not yet committed to a wifi provider. Some of the options would support G2G and some would not.

        1. I cannot tell if you’re trying to be serious or sarcastic here. But it is very, very expensive to deliver that service.

    1. Also to non-announce that they’re going after the LCC and ME3 carriers with a new offering that only saves a portion of the costs they really need to trim.

  3. It’s a union thing right?

    The pilots have “work conditions adapted to its competitive positioning” and for the flight attendants “an independent career path will be created to enable this new company to be operated at the level of market costs”. That’s what the Nov 2016 press release said ( http://www.airfranceklm.com/sites/default/files/communiques/trust_together_en.pdf ).

    I bet those pilots and FAs end up being less expensive and having lower labor obligations on a per-passenger-seat-mile basis.

    To the extent that it’s a labor thing:
    * Kind of reminds me how Lufthansa has some longhaul transatlantic flights operated by people following CityLine work rules (“Jump” flights e.g. https://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/33686-cityline-pilots-to-operate-lufthansas-a340-jump-fleet ). I think those aircraft have a discernibly leisure configuration but still feel like LH despite being operated by CL.

    * Or reminds me of how Swiss operates its 77W fleet with the Swiss Global Air Lines subsidiary ( formerly Swiss European Air Lines, https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/swiss-clashes-with-pilot-union-over-cost-cuts-398259/ ) to cut labor costs. I think those aircraft (e.g. ZRH-SFO) feel a lot like LX and are not obviously LZ.

    1. Yes, a union thing, focused on cutting costs to compete with LCCs and the ME3. Problem is that it is still the same union, just with slightly different work rules. I do not believe the cuts will be significant enough to deliver the overall savings the carrier needs. Especially when it only covers 10% of the fleet (and that excludes the LCC/regional arms).

      The Cityline planes from LH have no F and a relatively small J cabin but same seats/service on board as the rest of LH. Swiss does it the same, too. But that’s not what Air France is proposing here. Rather than save all the cash involved in setting up a new AOC and new branding and all that other crap to help cover labor costs they’re building a whole new airline with a dedicated brand and the associated overhead. That makes very little sense to me.

  4. I wonder if it something similar to Moxy by Marriott, it is targeted to 20-30. We enjoyed it though we felt quite old there, we were not the target group. Doing similar with airline might be difficult and I am not sure how well I would fit in or would there be enough customers in their target group.

    1. @ Kimmo….Moxy makes sense to some extend because that demographic might want to sit in the nice common areas and play on their devices. They don’t seem to want to spend much time in their rooms since the rooms are the size of a box. Aloft by Starwood and other independent hotel chains did this first and Marriott copied it to try and be corporate cool. IMHO it works for hotels but it just can’t be translated to a plane. Basically you are stuck in a seat for a duration of time and there’s not much they can change about that. They can’t make the seats much smaller and offer a common area because that just doesn’t work for airlines. To me this really is a “lipstick on a pig” attempt to use marketing to TRY and make this sound new and interesting when the reality is that this will be a “butt in seat” experience just like the one Air France and other airlines currently offer.

  5. Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t heard of Joon before now.
    Wonder if it will be more successful than BA’s “Go”?

  6. Based on initial reactions and the prior performance of meta airlines, I’m going to guess that Joon is going to be DOA. Millennials, (I suppose I’m one of them) tend to be profoundly price conscious on transportation. I don’t know what segment is being targeted here if prices won’t really be lower and services are likely to remain the same. They could put a decently sized seat in it, but no one would pay. I don’t see the business justification in this move at all.

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