Do we really need an airline for millennials?

Millennials have been labelled ‘elusive’, ‘mysterious’, and difficult to win over. Source: Sorbis/Shutterstock

THE travel industry has proven – time and time again – that branding campaigns targeted towards millennials are parodies in and of themselves. Images of 20-somethings in fedoras, selfie sticks in tow against “Instagram-worthy” set-ups, are just some of the ways the group is pigeon-holed by marketers.

In their time, millennials have been labelled “elusive”, “mysterious”, and difficult to win over when it comes to travel and hospitality offerings. Hotels, in particular, have been trying to charm the subset with color-splashed walls, a local-centric outlook, an affinity to hashtags, and a tiring medley of buzzwords.

It’s not just the hotels scrambling to appear “young”. Air France’s new “millennial-focused” sister airline is yet another damning example of why “millennial-focused” products and services sometimes run counter to the causes they set out to promote in the first place.

The airline – called Joon –will begin serving European routes in December with long-haul flights to Fortaleza in Brazil and Mahé in the Seychelle to take effect soon. By 2020, the airline is planning to operate 28 aircraft, but there’s no word yet about possible expansion in Asia.

In much of the early promotional materials, the airline color scheme seems to gravitate towards various shades of blue, including in a promotional video featuring two talents who perform a freestyle dance routine for an entire minute without referencing the airline or general airline-related activities.

The video ends with the tagline “Joon – Also an Airline”, as if to suggest that millennials are so averse to a product being explicated in their faces, they’d rather watch a minute-long video of two cabin crew members prance about to chic French music. Because, well, art and stuff.

If it’s all a bit too on-the-nose, the official press release reads: “Joon is a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant… and Joon does flying too!”

To add, Jean-Michel Mathieu, CEO of Joon added in a statement: “To create Joon, we worked together to define a new offer in the air transport industry, in a spirit of creativity, innovation and agility.

“Joon is Air France’s little sister, who breaks with tradition and takes inspiration from the new expectations of travellers to offer an experience that goes beyond the aircraft doors.”

SEE ALSO: Marriott targets millennials with ‘lifestyle’ range Moxy Hotels

Furthermore, Caroline Fontaine, global brand vice president at Air France, said in a statement: “This generation has inspired us a lot:  Epicurean and connected, they are opportunistic in a positive sense of the word as they know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others. Joon is a brand that carries these values.”

You may ask: What distinguishes a millennial airline from a regular airline? Well, it doesn’t just take you from A to B safely, it lets you do so with a VR headset strapped around your head by way of in-flight entertainment from a streaming channel called “YouJoon”.

The AlloSky Virtual Reality Headset will be available to business class passengers and “provides several innovations such as a high-definition screen and a diopter correction to adapt to everyone’s eyes”.

On top of that, “surprise destinations” and “Airbnb experiences” are promised.  The airline reportedly partnered up with Airbnb to offer local experiences to select destinations while tours will be run by professional guides.

There’s also a bizarrely labelled “rooftop bar” on the plane, a bar that serves food with some organic options, as well as vitamin-rich fruit juices. Meanwhile, cabin crew will be dressed in “chic sportswear”: White sneakers, electric blue polo shirts, and sweaters made of recycled fabric.

Skift spoke to Brett Snyder, an industry analyst, about his thoughts on Joon:

“Words cannot describe how much I hate this entire thing from start to finish. Air France appears to have just given up and told a group of clueless consultants to do whatever they wanted.

“The end result is an airline with a highly questionable business plan… but one with a ‘punchy’ name.”

A report on Gizmodo suggested that an airline for millennials should offer frequent flyer miles for racking up student loan debt rather than simply dishing up organic grub and offering fancy gadgets.

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SEE ALSO: Accor debuts ‘lifestyle’ hotel range to cater to millennials

With various reports proving that many millennials are debt-ridden and spending more than ever on housing, it makes sense that a “millennial-focused” airline should work to offer cheap, efficient travel over novelty ancillaries.

And while branding speak is a necessary evil in the travel industry, Joon’s poor attempt to market a commodity to a specific group concurrently undermines the group’s ability to see past the fluff. And in its unashamed effort to fly above the rest, the battle is already lost in the attempt.