Air France Roll Dice on Millennial Market

Aug 29, 2017
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Joon, The High-Tech Air France subsidiary

 

Air France revealed plans this week for a new subsidiary, Joon. It will target the younger market of travellers in an increasingly digital world.

In its statement, Air France said that Joon would be ‘especially aimed at young working clientele, the millennials (18 to 35 year olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology’. It is not clear what technology this is. Will it be used differently in Joon or just implemented into Air France existing services? Still, if a new subsidiary needs to be created for this, we may well be seeing the beginning of a whole new type of airline.

The medium-haul service will begin operating from Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, later this year. Further destinations will be added next year, though there were some warnings about its pricing.

 

Just low cost or really different?

 

‘This will not be a low-cost airline’ said Air France, due to the fact that it will ‘offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France’.

Will these prices correlate with the cash-strapped millennial market? We can expect more information from Air France soon.
Those in the millennial age bracket are eager to see if this is just another attempt to sound “hip” and “cool”. Sometimes, corporations try (and fail) in attracting younger, more digital users, with ideas such as replacing all of their bathroom sounds with emoji.

Joon cabin crews will have more laid back, chic uniforms, which could be a step in the right direction as far as the brand is concerned. Or could this be the first sign that millennials may soon be dealing with cabin crew on skateboards who address them only as ‘dude’.

 

Inspired by Millenials

 

More positive signs came from Caroline Fontaine, the VP Brand at Air France. She described millennials as inspiring to Air France, due to their ‘Epicurean and connected’ lifestyle. They have this propensity to be ‘opportunistic in a positive sense’. They want Joon to be a brand that carries the millennial values: knowing how to enjoy every moment and the pursuit of quality experiences. This is even better if if can be shared with others.

The newly appointed CEO of Joon, Jean-Michel Mathieu, is not a newbie. He has spent most of his career with Air France and has held roles in Digital Services and the Network side of things. This should (and I do place heavy emphasis on should) be a relatively forward-thinking, modern enterprise with someone with such experience at the head.

 

The challenge of keeping up to date

 

So with Air France being so private about how exactly this new tech-focus to attract millennials will be used, we are being forced to speculate. The air travel industry is no stranger to using new technology to enhance its convenience. But this is often a fast, yet tiring and bureaucratically nightmarish way to travel. On-board WiFi has been installed on most new aircraft. That and mobile phone boarding passes have already allowed airlines to cater for a generation who are quickly phasing out paper items.

The trouble with ‘sprucing up’ air travel to a modern standard is the red tape. Jeremy Brown, a Senior Designer in Customer Experience at Virgin Atlantic, explained the issue perfectly when he said in a Q & A on Virgin’s website:

‘The challenge working onboard an aircraft is that technology is several years behind where the rest of the world is with mobile phones and access to the internet. The limitations of what we’re able to achieve onboard will eventually catch up with what we expect in day-to-day technology but very naturally it has to go through lots of different approval phases before we can install the technology onboard’

This means that even if Joon hits all the sweet spots with millennials, they’re going to need to be doing insane amounts of renovating and keeping-up to even stay relevant, never mind stay ahead of the game at a level which competes with the expectations of one of the hardest to please generations we’ve ever known.

 

The difficult launch

 

Even before it launches, Joon has not been without controversy. Air France pilots were initially very sceptical and borderline hostile about the plans. They feared this was a ploy by Air France to cut their pay, pensions or working conditions. Air France, already plagued by strikes in some of their subsidiaries, were quick to put these fears to bed. The pilots have agreed with Air France that they will support the new subsidiary on the condition they receive the same pay and conditions as they do under Air France. The other cabin staff, such as stewards and hosts, will not have these protections due to their recruitment being outsourced.

Time will tell whether or not this new tech-centric focus from Air France will grip millennials, arguably the most picky yet surprisingly start-up-loyal generation. Or whether it will fall flat on its face like the majority of prior attempts by major corporations to be ‘hip with the kids’.