In September 2017, Air France officially launched a new airline brand called Joon – it was marketed as the airline for millennials and operated with a hybrid model somewhere between low-cost and full-service. A little over a year later and the Air France has confirmed what many thought was on the cards for some time – Joon is to close and flight attendants, along with other staffers will be transferred to Air France.
Joon was always an interesting experiment but some of its business practices were strange, to say the least. Rather than launching its own routes, Joon simply took over existing Air France services. It made for an interesting customer proposition and it certainly confused the heck out of many unsuspecting passengers.
Worse still, was what many saw as Air France’s ulterior motives for launching Joon – saving money by hiring flight attendants on significantly lower wages than their counterparts at the mainline airline. Then came the allegations of fatigue and poor working conditions that were stretching European aviation rules to the very limit. Joon promised to change but the writing was already on the wall.
The powerful unions, who orchestrated crippling strike action at Air France over the course of last summer, had already made the closure of Joon a top priority in negotiating a longterm deal with management. When Air France took the shock decision of hiring Benjamin Smith as chief executive of Air France-KLM in September (the first non-French executive to take on the role), union’s were initially outraged but Smith soon won them over.
Smith had publicly questioned the need for Joon and so this decision probably comes as no surprise. In a statement, Air France says it is launching “a project studying the future of the Joon brand.” In reality, the brand will close.
“Despite the many positive impacts of Joon, in particular, the invaluable contribution of the teams at Joon who launched the company and worked with passion and dedication, the brand was difficult to understand from the outset for customers, for employees, for markets and for investors,” the airline explained.
“The plurality of brands in the marketplace has created much complexity and unfortunately weakened the power of the Air France brand.”
The UNSA union welcomed the move, calling the decision a “complete break with all that we have gone through in recent years.” Along with promising to transfer some 550 Joon cabin crew onto better Air France contracts, the airline has also agreed to a number of sweeping changes to improve working conditions for flight attendants at the airline.
“I am very pleased with this new balanced agreement,” commented Smith.
“I hope to see improved trust and fruitful dialogue between Air France and our employees, as I firmly believe that we must have employee buy-in and support in order to truly become a global leader.”
Air France-KLM is one of the biggest airline groups in Europe but the Dutch KLM side is widely seen as propping the business up. Along with last years strike action, Air France has also been hit by the recent ‘Yellow Vest’ protests that saw protestors riot in Paris and other metropolitan areas across France. The airline says the protests have affected sales by as much as 15%.
Smith, who previously headed Air Canada and is credited with turning around the airline, is already making his mark at Air France. Along with improving the relationship between staff and management, the carrier has also announced plans to refit a number of longhaul aircraft with an improved product over the coming years.