Young travelers often go where the deals are, and no one knows this better than low-cost airlines. As a result, legacy carriers have been forced to roll out fresh strategies to carve out new sources of revenue. Launching a new “sister” airline catering to 18-to-35 year olds (otherwise known as millennials), Air France is making its own play for future airfares. But ironically, in courting travelers who like to blaze their own trails, the company is actually tracing a flightpath similar to other well-loved competitors.
The new Air France airline is called Joon—in reference to jeune, which means young in French—and it’s not simply another low-cost carrier. The upstart airline has been designed to embody all-things-millennial and be a lifestyle brand. In Air France’s view that apparently means Internet connectivity and an “experience.”
“With Joon, we have created a young and connected brand that will give the Group a new impetus,” said Dominique Wood, Air France’s executive vice president of brand and communications. “Designed for our millennial customers, it will offer more than just a flight and a fare, it will offer a global travel experience.” Along those lines, the Joon brand has been designed to meet millenials requirements and aspirations, the company said.
But Air France doesn’t go into any further details of what any of this actually means for the millennial customer, except that the brand’s signature color will be electric blue and flight attendants will have uniforms that are basic and chic. Air France says more details about Joon will be revealed in September, so it seems the public will have to wait until then to see if the company’s idea of chic is in fact that.
But whether Air France (AFLYY) realizes it or not, Joon has taken a page right out of Southwest and Virgin Airlines’ playbooks. Southwest used training and technology to not only build a positive user experience, but also to make a financially sound business. The company built its fleet using all the same model of aircraft and developed robust training for employees that has given it top marks for customer service.
Meanwhile, Virgin America, the U.S. airline founded by billionaire Richard Branson in 2007, was the embodiment of young, connected, and hip. It was ahead of most other airlines in identifying what its customers wanted, and provided those services—like Wi-Fi, free satellite TV, on-demand beverage ordering, and a great safety video—well before other competition. Even Virgin’s purple lighting evoked a sense of coolness.
Virgin became the top-ranked U.S. airline before it was acquired by Alaska Airlines (ALK), which continues to operate it to this day (to the delight of its cult-like following). And if Joon succeeds in emulating Virgin and Southwest, it could also could land its fair share of loyal customers.
We shall see. Joon will start operating medium-haul flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport this fall, with long-haul flights beginning in summer 2018.