We've covered airlines from day one at Skift, but today we take our coverage and analysis to the next level with the launch of our weekly Skift Airline Innovation Report.
The newsletter, which will pop into your inbox on Wednesdays, will be written and curated by me, and it revolves around the business of airline innovation. We will look closely at the technological, financial, and design trends at airlines and airports that are driving the next-gen aviation industry.
The Internet can be a ruthless place for even the most sophisticated brands, and in recent months Air France has received considerable ridicule, not only from airline industry insiders, like blogger Brett Snyder
, of Cranky Flier, but also from sites as varied as Gizmodo
, Mashable, and the New York Post.
Air France's costs remain stubbornly high, and its Airbus A380 desperately needs an interior update. It's a concern when an airline's flagship aircraft features its most-outdated cabins
, including angled beds in business class.
But, at least for the Internet, the issue has been Joon
, Air France's lower-cost subsidiary launching in December. It's being marketed as a hip and cool airline designed for millennials. An oft-mocked press release said, "Joon is a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant… and Joon does flying too!"
It probably shouldn't surprise anyone that Gizmodo, the sassy design, technology, and science site formerly owned by Gawker, mocked Joon with a headline that read, "Air France's Ridiculous 'Airline for Millennials' Promises VR and a 'Rooftop Bar.'"
I met last week in New York with Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac to discuss many issues facing his company, including culture clashes between the Dutch and French sides of his business, and I asked him about Joon. I wondered if the marketing folks had taken their charge — designing an airline that might intrigue younger passengers — too far.
As you might expect, Janaillac was diplomatic. Yes, he told me, Air France seeks a fresher approach, and it does want to attract new and younger customers. But he said this new lower-cost airline is less a play for millennials and more of a commercial response to another problem — fierce competition from Gulf carriers and long-haul discounters like Norwegian Air. Joon is an airline for everyone, young and old, Janaillac told us.
At Skift, we understand why Air France needed to start a lower-cost subsidiary, and we wish it success. We even get why Air France would want a brand that welcomes travelers in their 20s and 30s. But we wonder if it could have been less overt with its marketing strategy because millennials usually don't like it when a brand panders to them.