Joon is a rooftop bar. Joon is a personal assistant, an entertainment channel and fashion designer. Joon is the new generation travel experience designed to meet travellers’ new expectations. Okay, Joon actually isn’t any of these things – despite what the cringe-worthy marketing literature might have you believe.
In reality, Joon is a low-cost subsidiary of Air France which launched in December 2017 and has since gone on to snaffle up Air France aircraft and destinations. Using a fleet of mainly Airbus A320 and A321 single-aisle aircraft, the airline flies to destinations such as Barcelona, Berlin and Oslo from its hub at Paris Charles De Gaul Airport.
Joon also has a small fleet of A340 dual aisle aircraft for longer range operations to Fortaleza in Brazil, Mumbai, Cape Town and Seychelles (a service to Tehran, Iran will soon be terminated as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the United States on the Iranian regime).
But while Air France calls Joon a new travel experience, it’s hard to ignore the reality – Joon is an attempt to desperately reduce costs at the French flag carrier. You see, Air France has a problem – its overheads remain stubbornly high and in its partnership with Dutch carrier KLM, the French side is dragging profits down.
Joon is seen as Air France’s response to intense competition from both short haul and long haul low-cost operators like Norwegian, Iceland’s WOW Air and even IAG’s Iberia off-shoot, LEVEL. While Joon has its own air operators certificate, the airline is using Air France pilots and repainted aircraft, with new cabin crew and other staff on significantly different (read, less generous) contracts.
What could possibly go wrong? Air France unions have long been opposed to Joon and it’s easy to see why – they argue the airline is being used to undercut the services provided by crew on older Air France contracts. Some estimates put the cost of a Joon cabin attendant at 40% less than an Air France flight attendant.
But surely Joon’s new cabin crew knew what they were getting into when they signed the contract? It appears that may not be the case – and now the airline is facing criticism for “harsh working conditions” according to the French newspaper, Le Tribune.
Do Joon’s new cabin crew have the right to be upset about their pay and conditions? The unions (and workers) are unhappy for two main reasons:
- Working hours and time off
- Lower pay than advertised
Let’s explain both points in more detail:
Working hours and time off
Since late 2013, Europe’s aviation safety agency EASA has set continent-wide rules on what are referred to as ‘Flight Time Limitations’ – essentially, a set of rules which spell out the maximum number of hours a flight attendant can work, the number of hours needed as rest between shifts and how in-flight rest can be used to extend working hours.
EASA used the latest information from fatigue experts to draw up the rules but they were always designed to be the absolute minimum required. Some countries have even amended certain rules to extend the protection provided.
By some standards, the rules are generous: Flight attendants can only have 1,000 flying hours in any 12-month period and are limited to just 100 flying hours in any given month. They are also guaranteed at least 12-hours rest between shifts at home base and away from base must be given a minimum of 10-hours rest (a policy that U.S. flight attendants are still fighting for).
So what’s the problem at Joon?
These rules are the absolute minimum protection but when Joon was set up, executives decided to use these rules as the basis for their scheduling agreement. Unions say the rules don’t take account of the cumulative effect of working day-after-day – sometimes for 11 days in a row. Sickness levels and reports of fatigue are said to be unusually high at the carrier.
Joon has been quick to respond:
“We started our operation with European FTL rules, to which we added additional resting conditions from the start. Thanks to fatigue analysis, we have already improved points that I did not want to see anymore. And we continue on this path since we now take into account the desiderata of each employee in terms of preferred destination or dates of their rest period,” explained Sophie Bordmann, the airline’s operations chief.
“We will call on an outside firm to develop a system that will allow our planning agents to integrate the fatigue element into the construction of schedules.”
Lower Pay Than Advertised
The second issue is one that has affected a number of rapidly expanding low-cost airlines – candidates attend an interview and are promised an expected wage but it fails to materialise. They went into the process and accepted a job offer with certain expectations but the reality doesn’t live up to the promise.
Most cabin crew receive a basic monthly pay and allowances on top. Joon says it hired more crew than was absolutely necessary to operate its schedule – as a result, crew didn’t work as many hours and in turn, didn’t earn the allowances to make up a wage which was promised.
Again, this is an issue the airline says its addressing and a one-off bonus has even been paid to bring pay in line with what was expected.
There’s no doubt that Air France see’s Joon as a crucial element in bringing staff costs under control – especially in light of union discontent at Air France mainline over a demanded pay rise.
As it stands, Joon management says talk of a strike at the low-cost carrier is overhyped but that doesn’t mean staff at the airline don’t have a valid point. Their right to bring management to account should be respected.
Meanwhile, over at Air France have put off further strike action so that talks can get under way with the group’s new chief executive.