Craft beer and VR in busi­ness as mil­len­ni­als get their own air­line

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

THE French do things dif­fer­ently, and na­tional car­rier Air France has a few sur­prises up its well-tai­lored sleeves for some busi­ness trav­ellers.

It’s the first ma­jor air­line to ag­gres­sively tar­get the vi­tal mil­len­nial mar­ket — the busi­ness movers and shak­ers of to­mor­row — and it’s done so not with a shake-up of its own ser­vices, but by cre­at­ing a new air­line, Joon.

The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent was the only Ir­ish na­tional news­pa­per on the guest list as Air France ceo Franck Terner un­veiled Joon to Eu­ro­pean me­dia at a small con­ven­tion cen­tre look­ing over the sprawl­ing skyline of the City of Light.

Con­ceived and cre­ated in just nine months, Joon is be­ing branded as an in­no­va­tive dis­rup­tor — and busi­ness class will never be the same again.

Short haul will see its Air­bus A320 fleet re­plac­ing Air France main­line from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Ber­lin, Barcelona, Porto and Lis­bon.

The big­gest cul­ture shock is the look of the cabin crew — out go uni­forms and in come ca­sual jack­ets, polo shirts or sailor tops — 60pc re­cy­cled from plas­tic bot­tles and Le Coq Spor­tif run­ners, not shoes. It’s a sort of Jean-paul Gaultier meets Hol­lis­ter.

And the young and hip look ex­tends to other mil­len­nial life­style choices - gourmet or­ganic free-trade cof­fee, tapas plates for shar­ing, craft beer and French food sup­plied by ar­ti­san star­tups and small pro­duc­ers. Food is a ma­jor push and Joon ceo Jean Michel Mathieu boasted: “We are French af­ter all.”

The air­line’s por­tal will al­low in-flight stream­ing of shows like Game of Thrones, while on long haul (Brazil and Sey­chelles for now, start­ing next year) busi­ness class trav­ellers will be given Joon’s own new vir­tual re­al­ity gog­gles for “im­mer­sive” ex­pe­ri­ences.

In a fur­ther nod to mil­len­ni­als, Joon has teamed up with other dig­i­tal sup­pli­ers, pos­si­bly most con­tro­ver­sially Airbnb, to of­fer lodg­ings and ex­pe­ri­ences at des­ti­na­tions. In­ter­est­ingly, a hook-up with Trav­el­car means pas­sen­gers can al­low their cars to be rented to oth­ers while they’re parked at air­ports.

So will the busi­ness trav­eller em­brace the va va voom, or han­ker back for auld de­cency? The Por­tuguese me­dia at the event feels it’s 50-50 and the Iberian busi­ness trav­eller tends to like for­mal­ity. The fo­cus be­hind Joon is to push more traf­fic on­wards from Eu­ro­pean des­ti­na­tions and feed Air France’s mas­sive Charles de Gaulle hub, which is a big ask. Joon’s not low-cost, but fares will be com­pet­i­tive, with one-way econ­omy from €39 on the Paris-barcelona route, for in­stance.

Mathieu told this col­umn that Dublin could be a con­tender if Joon does take off, and the ca­sual fo­cus could even be ex­tended to Air France it­self, with Joon act­ing as a guinea pig with its own in­no­va­tion test cen­tre. ÷ AIR France it­self is shak­ing up its op­er­a­tions at Dublin Air­port. From Oc­to­ber 29, it’ll be op­er­at­ing its own air­craft on the Dublin to Charles de Gaulle route. That ser­vice is cur­rently op­er­ated by code­share part­ner Ci­ty­jet, but for the win­ter sea­son two of the four daily flights will be op­er­ated by Air France us­ing A318 air­craft, one by its re­gional car­rier HOP us­ing an Em­braer 190 air­craft and one by Ci­ty­jet us­ing an Avro­liner AR8.

The air­line said the move is be­cause of big de­mand into and out of Dublin, with the small AR8 planes of­ten full to ca­pac­ity. Sis­ter air­line KLM, which goes to five-daily on Dublin to Am­s­ter­dam from Oc­to­ber 29, may in­crease that ser­vice even fur­ther on a route chal­leng­ing Aer Lin­gus and Ryanair. ÷ QATAR Air­ways is now of­fer­ing “pre­mium global chauf­feur ser­vice” for pas­sen­gers in all classes. Un­like the ri­val Emi­rates’ op­tion, you’ll have to pay for the lux­ury, and it’s book­able on­line with Qatar.

Pas­sen­gers get a choice of high-end ve­hi­cles, from sup­plier Black­lane, in­clud­ing Audi, BMW, Mercedes-benz and Cadil­lac to take them to and from their cho­sen air­port.

The new chauf­feur-driven ser­vice is avail­able at more than 85 Qatar Air­ways des­ti­na­tions around the world, in­clud­ing Dublin. Black­lane is also avail­able in more than 500 air­ports world­wide.

I checked pric­ing one-way from Dublin Air­port to The Shel­bourne in St Stephen’s Green and it was just shy of €70 — but less if the routes are re­versed. It’s pricey but there are ad­van­tages, with free 60-min­utes wait time for air­port pick­ups, a meet-and-greet ser­vice, free can­cel­la­tion up un­til an hour be­fore pickup and pay­ments are only made, by credit card, when the jour­ney is over.

Joon’s ceo Jean Michel Mathieu poses with cabin crew at the air­line’s launch in Paris

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