Air France is adding seven new routes to its millennial-branded airline JOON in a bid to drive down costs and better compete with low cost carriers. On March 25 of next year, JOON will begin service to Rome Fiumicino from Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) 49x weekly, Oslo 18x weekly from CDG, Naples 14x weekly from CDG, Istanbul 7x weekly from CDG, and Cairo 7x weekly from CDG. JOON will also begin 3x weekly service from CDG to Cape Town on April 1 of next year and 3x weekly service to Tehran on April 2, 2018.
JOON is a so-called hybrid airline, a carrier that offers a full-service product at a lower cost. JOON, which commences operations on December 1, will operate a fleet of A320 aircraft configured with 174 seats in two classes, A321 aircraft configured with 212 seats in two classes, and A340 aircraft configured with three classes.
Air France has marketed JOON as a millennial friendly airline, complete with bougie snacks, free wi-fi, free inflight entertainment streamed through the YouJOON app, VR headsets, and flight attendants outfitted in trendy uniforms. However, the JOON brand has been met with much derision on social media, especially after the airline described itself as a “fashion brand” and “trendy rooftop bar” that is “also an airline.”
However, behind the flashiness of the JOON brand is the parent airline Air France, which is desperately working to cut costs to better compete with the low cost carriers that are assaulting the legacies on both short-haul and long-haul flying. After the labor fiasco surrounding the planned expansion of Air France-KLM’s low cost carrier Transavia left management’s shirts in tatters, Air France has taken the higher cost hybrid-carrier route with JOON. For example, JOON emphasizes the passenger experience and millennial-geared amenities over the cost of its fares.
While JOON will have to compete with the traditional low cost carriers on its newly announced routes, another player has entered the Paris market: IAG’s LEVEL long-haul low cost carrier recently announced four new routes from Paris Orly.
With downward pressure on fares coming from all sides and a higher cost base than its competitors, Air France is betting that the flashy service and marketing of JOON will overcome the vast structural problems of the Air France-KLM group.