In December 2017, Air France launched Joon, a new low cost carrier targeted at millennials. Over the years we’ve seen lots of airlines launch low cost carriers, some of which have been successful, and some of which haven’t.
What is Joon?
In the case of Joon, there was actually very little that made it unique. Joon claimed to be a fashion designer, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant, and oh, an airline!
The flight attendants wore more casual clothes, they had organic snacks for sale on board, and they had virtual reality headsets in longhaul business class. Yay?
The reality is that Joon was clearly formed just as a method for cutting costs. When airlines form ultra low cost carriers they typically achieve cost savings by hiring crews under cheaper contracts.
In the case of Joon, the pilots were transferred over from Air France and maintained their existing contracts, so there were no cost savings there. Meanwhile the flight attendants were being paid roughly 40% less than Air France flight attendants.
Rumors of Joon’s demise
Several months ago Air France-KLM hired Ben Smith as CEO, who is the airline executive I have more respect for than any other. He was previously at Air Canada, and had a fresh, outsider’s perspective on the company, which is what Air France oh-so-desperately needed.
As I noted last October, he saw many opportunities for Air France-KLM which might have seemed obvious to outsiders all along. One of the changes under consideration was eliminating Joon.
The way Smith saw it, it wasn’t worth the confusion it caused for customers, as well as the brand dilution, given that they were otherwise trying to position Air France as a premium airline.
Air France is eliminating Joon
While we knew Air France was considering eliminating Joon, it’s now official. La Tribune is reporting that just 13 months after it was launched, Air France intends to discontinue Joon, and an agreement has been signed between management and unions.
With this agreement, the plan is that Air France will take over the planes that they previously provided to Joon (which includes 13 A320s and four A340s), and they’ll also hire the roughly 600 flight attendants who worked for Joon.
Those flight attendants will make significantly more money than before. In the case of the pilots, they were already Air France pilots under the “standard” pay scale, so there won’t be any changes there.
In a letter to employees, Smith explained that Air France needs to focus on being a premium carrier, and the inconsistency created by Joon simply wasn’t worth it, where a flight one day was operated by a Joon plane, while the next day being operated by an Air France plane. He also acknowledges that Air France is one of the few major airlines without fully flat beds in business class on all planes, and they’re working on improving that.
It’s so refreshing to see Air France-KLM run by someone who “gets it.” Also keep in mind that one of the biggest issues that Air France has historically had has involved their labor contracts.
I think there’s no one better to negotiate with the unions than Smith, given that he’s not a stand-offish guy, and also given that he doesn’t view this as an us vs. them situation.
I suspect he’s also earning some bonus points with the unions for integrating the work groups and hiring significantly more “mainline” flight attendants, and hopefully that pays off for the airline as well.
What remains to be seen now is the exact timeline with which the Joon brand will be terminated.
What do you make of the Joon brand being discontinued?