Air France Renaming Regional Airline, ‘HOP!’

Many airlines have regional brands that are closely connected to their larger ‘mainline’ brand. Qantas has QantasLink, Lufthansa has Lufthansa Regional, KLM has KLM Cityhopper, etc.

These regional brands usually operate smaller aircraft than their mainline parent, both because there is less demand on the routes they fly, and less need to provide the full passenger experience that one would receive on the mainline brand on these short flights.

In Europe at least, you don’t expect a three course meal on a 45 minute flight.

Regional brands are developed for a few different reasons, depending on the airline:

  • They may provide feed from regional airports to major hub airports; for example, a passenger may fly QantasLink from Dubbo to Sydney and then connect to a Qantas flight from Sydney to Los Angeles
  • They may operate routes with insufficient demand for jets like a B737 or A320, but can be profitably operated by propeller planes and regional jets
  • The runways at these smaller airports may not be able to accommodate anything larger than a propeller or regional jet
  • They may have lower operating costs than the mainline brand, so can better compete against low cost carriers on routes that see more leisure demand and less business demand

Air France has a regional arm called HOP! This subsidiary actually has a significant fleet of 77 aircraft. They provide feed to the Air France mainline brand at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly, and also have a sizable hub at Lyon airport.

Ben reviewed HOP! a few years ago from Frankfurt to Paris CDG and found it to be a pretty standard intra-Europe full service experience.

While the name is not as straightforward as ‘Air France Regional’ or ‘Air France Connect,’ and although I’ve never actually flown HOP!, I always thought it was pretty obvious it was for short hops around Europe on smaller planes, with a likelihood of connecting to Air France mainline flights in Paris.

Air France-KLM’s new CEO, Ben Smith, doesn’t seem to think the branding is clear enough as HOP! will now change its name to Air France HOP, and lose the exclamation point.

Air France has explained in a press release that they are doing this because:

This development makes it possible to link the regional flight offer more clearly to the Air France brand, and strengthens it by making it the sole point of reference for customers wishing to travel on the French flag carrier.

This is the next step in the process of simplifying Air France-KLM’s brand portfolio in order to provide greater clarity for customers and more consistency with the group’s global commercial offer.

I guess this integration is similar to Cathay Pacific’s decision to change their ‘Dragonair’ brand to become ‘Cathay Dragon,’ to align the brand more closely to the mainline Cathay Pacific brand.

Ben Smith recently announced that this JOON brand would end after only a little over a year in operation because this brand was confusing for consumers. He’s not going to kill HOP!, just change its name.

Bottom line

I’ve always thought the HOP! brand was very obvious in its purpose and its relation to Air France, especially as it has ‘Air France’ written right below the HOP! name already on the side of each plane. However, I understand how this could cause confusion for others, especially during the booking process.

I’m impressed with how sophisticated the Cathay Pacific and Dragon integration now is, so perhaps this will be done in a similarly impressive way.

Do you think passengers are confused enough by the HOP! name that it should be more closely aligned to the Air France brand?

Comments

  1. Still said Hop! For Air France however seems Ben Smith is doing a good job here The difference between Klm
    City hopper and Air France is that everything is focussed on one airport – Schiphol. The country is much smaller. France has multiple airports and 4 x the population Lyon is not an Air France hub however hip operates regional services on behelf of AF. No difference from delta connection etc
    The Joon brand was far more confusing and unnecessary. Hop is clearer

  2. I’ve often wondered why they don’t just call it by the same name as the mainline carrier. Most folks know that if you want to visit Yosemite from Hong Kong, you’d book United HKG-FAT and you’re going to fly mainline United to SFO then United Express to FAT. I always presumed it was for business, tax, or liability/insurance purposes given that most of the regional arms rely solely or mostly on contracted carriers. But if pax purchase tickets through the same website or ticket office and fly on mainline flight numbers in aircraft with general mainline branding, why confuse the issue with different names in the first place.

  3. @AR. Hop is a separate company Although owned by AF Likewise the connection carriers operate on behalf of mainline carriers. Eg Skywest and are separate companies with their own staff and contracts

  4. @Icarus:

    For sure – the operating on behalf of mainline carriers I get; lots of family working for SkyWest actually, and flying for UA and DL. Just seems a stupid move of the mainline carriers to not even include the mainline name in the first place. Like Dragonair and Hop! Oh well.

  5. HOP! serves the airport at Castries, located an hour’s drive from our house in southern France. Our French neighbors and friends all understand the regional carrier is actually Air France and frankly I’ve long wondered why management doesn’t just call drop the HOP! name and paint the smaller planes in Air France’s livery. I’m guessing the HOP! name allows Air France to hire workers without having to pay them AF salaries.

  6. @AR however they do ? Dragonair rebranded as Cathay dragon and in the same livery but red
    Hop has Air France written on the aircraft. KLM city hopper
    American eagle , delta connection
    .. same corporate branding with a decal confirming the operating carrier
    When you book online it will have the mainline code and a note confirming the operating carrier. Eg LAX – Phoenix operates by compass air in delta livery

  7. Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited DBA Cathay Dragon (previously Dragonair), it and Cathay Pacific are two separated entities. They are exactly two different companies.
    Cathay Dragon and HOP are in different situations since Cathay Dragon can fly international routes.

  8. Cathay got Dragonair through an acquisition… and after a very long merger process eventually brought in inline and rebranded it as Cathay Dragon. So it’s a bit of a different situation.

  9. James you completely the missed the main reason why legacy mainline carriers have branded regional/express services operated by separate companies….it’s all about the pilots, their seniority and the unions. Lucky had a good post about this a few years back. Though his examples are all NA based the setup equally applies to EU carriers too:
    https://onemileatatime.com/regional-airlines/

  10. I’m not sure about this change. CX and SIA reintegrated their names into their regional brands because they don’t pretend that the main brands should remain high-end and exclusive. On the contrary, Mr. Smith has a very visible and explicite strategy of pushing Air France high up there, by extravagantly spending money on des-densifying some current 10 seaters to 9 seaters. Doesn’t he worry HOP! would affect the precious luxurious brand image he’s decided to adopt for Air France? Spending money and making unreasonable compromises to work unions were easy solutions, not perfect ones. His aurora allowed him to convince the capital market to support all the recent moves but they created larger potential risks to Air France. Last year AF’s performance was actually, despite of all the union troubles. So even it continues to better, we can’t exclude the possibility of an existing and continuous momentum, not of good deeds of Mr. Smith himself.

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