What Went Wrong? Air France’s Low Cost Carrier Joon

The Joon brand was launched in 2017 by Air France. Complete with its own fleet and livery, the airline was marketed to the world as the millennial airline. Its goal was to appeal specifically to a younger generation of traveler. However, after seeing limited success with the brand, new Air France-KLM CEO at the time, Benjamin Smith, decided to shut down the endeavor and reintegrate Joon’s assets into Air France. The last Joon flight took place in late June 2019.

Joon
Joon had a lifespan of less than two years. Photo: Joon

The millennial airline

According to Creative Supply, JOON marketed itself as a “lifestyle-centric brand focused on design and digital technology”. In order to make the airline appeal to the younger generation, Air France changed up its product. The airline was marketed as low cost while including all the “essentials”. This included power, sockets, inflight entertainment. All of this was wrapped up with a trendy color scheme and casually dressed cabin crew. There were also couch seats.

Joon initially operated on routes from Paris to Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, and Porto. This started to make sense as those destinations were hotspots of tourism and weekend city-breaks – especially for millennials. Eventually expanding further afield, Joon then added Mumbai, Cairo, Cape Town, and Istanbul, among other destinations.

Joon millennial airline
Dubbed the ‘airline for millennials’, Joon targeted itself at families and young people. Photo: Joon/Air France

Not unique enough to draw the masses

Operating between Paris and other European cities, Joon faced a lot of competition on both sides. It was fighting with low-cost carriers like Vueling, Ryanair and easyJet whilst also operating similar routes as Air France, Alitalia, and TAP Air Portugal. The airline was lower cost than a legacy carrier, but not as low as true budget airlines.

When compared to the competition, Joon’s unique offerings of French craft beer, or lightly roasted organic peanuts weren’t enough to persuade its target segment. Its target demographic was either lured by the low airfares of true low-cost carriers, or were happy to book flights on legacy carriers and enjoy the benefits included in the slightly higher airfare.

This was also true of Joon’s longer routes. It faced enough competition from other airlines – ones with fantastic product offerings – Emirates and Qatar Airways come to mind. The slightly lower cost of Joon’s long-haul flights whilst offering only onboard meals for purchase couldn’t beat the premium services included by legacy carriers, even in economy class.

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Much of Joon’s target demographic was happy enough to pay less for the basic service of low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. Photo: Getty Images

Certain costs still high

CAPA offers another explanation, saying: “Using the term (and concept of) low cost was offensive to Air France’s unions, so much time and money that could have been used fighting external competition was wasted pandering to internal idiosyncrasies.”

On this note, we can say that the airline found cost savings from new labor agreements for cabin crew, as well as lower catering and outstation costs and limited support costs. However, as Joon pilots were on Air France contracts – this represented one additional hurdle to designating itself as truly low cost.

Furthermore, the airline was operating the relatively inefficient Airbus A340 for its long-haul operations. Trying to operate as a lower-cost airline with inefficient aircraft doesn’t work as well compared to having the front of the aircraft filled with high-paying premium class passengers.

The airline was supposed to get the new and more efficient A350 later in 2019. However, the brand was shut down before this could be a reality.

What Went Wrong? Air France’s Low Cost Carrier Joon
The relatively inefficient A340 was used for Joon’s long-haul operations. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

Ultimately, Joon would have had to experience a very high level of success for it to continue flying. As a new CEO, Smith’s priorities would have been to do away with any unnecessary costs. Therefore, an airline subsidiary with its own branding/identity, management, and resources, stands in the face of efficiency. The extra costs associated with managing Joon couldn’t justify what little extra revenue came in (if any).

It’s hard to know if Joon could have done anything right in order to succeed – or if operating the A350 on long-haul routes could have made it that much more profitable.

We’ve seen airlines align themselves with different wealth classes (budget vs. luxury) but to go after an age demographic within a particular culture requires a great deal of precision and research. Trying to appeal to millennials is nuanced enough as it is. For an airline to brand itself as such was a hugely aspirational endeavor, one that would ultimately not pay off.

Do you think Joon could have done anything different to succeed? Let us know in the comments!

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