It was with florid language that Air France unveiled Joon as its "new-generation travel experience" in September 2017.

In a section headed "Joon is...", the French flag carrier variously described its new unit as "a rooftop bar... an entertainment channel... a personal assistant... a fashion designer".

More specifically, Joon was intended as a disruptive hybrid of traditional and low-cost airline models that would lure in the all-important millennial demographic – an ambition signalled by its name, a corruption of "jeune".

But the plans for Joon – or Boost, to use its original working title – were not driven solely by customer targeting. Rather, they were drawn up in 2016 as Air France-KLM's then-chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac sought to establish a more competitive operating platform as a means of resolving costly conflict between the French flag carrier and its strike-prone aircrew.

Failure to achieve such a resolution would ultimately prompt Janaillac's resignation in May 2018. His successor, former Air Canada executive Ben Smith, led the group to a deal with a group of unions in October, and it was not much later that rumours of Joon's demise began to circulate. Finally, on 10 January, Air France confirmed that it was "studying the future of the Joon brand" within a statement that indicated little possibility of any outcome other than the subsidiary's absorption by Air France ("Through integration, Air France would see many benefits thanks to fleet, brand, and product harmonisation").

Joon had launched operations in December 2017, initially serving short-haul destinations Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Porto from Paris Charles de Gaulle. Long-haul destinations Fotaleza in Brazil and Mahe in the Seychelles would join the Joon network in the summer of 2018.

While established with its own air operator's certificate and distinct branding, Joon used only aircraft supplied by Air France: initially 18 Airbus A320-family narrowbodies, and then four A340s. These four-engined widebodies were to have been replaced with 10 A350s from late 2019. A rethinking of that plan fed the rationale for Joon's integration into Air France, which would "ensure a smooth transition of the Airbus A350... with a more economical cabin configuration."

Perhaps a bigger clue to the signalled shutdown of Joon lies in the burying of the announcement in a press release about an agreement with a trio of cabin-crew unions. After all, Joon's operational flexibility was provided not by its pilots – who alternated between Air France and the subsidiary, on existing terms and conditions – but by its cabin crew, recruited on separate contracts.

FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Joon is operating 1,986 of the Air France group's 26,119 flights in January. Joon's flights are spread across 15 routes from Paris Charles de Gaulle, 11 of which were previously operated by Air France itself, which of course is based at the same airport.

By contrast, IAG's latest low-cost brand Level – which also debuted in 2017 – appears more focused on breaking new ground. It has launched routes either from airports different to those at which sibling carriers are strong or, in the case of Barcelona where Vueling is a large short-haul player, in a different market: long-haul.

In January 2017, Air France's then chief Franck Terner tellingly noted that Joon gave the carrier "a more productive tool". Now, the tool is apparently surplus to requirements. This lays waste to a significant investment by Air France: at the time of launch, it had described the new brand as the product of "8,462 hours of creative brainstorming".

The airline's 10 January statement offers a rather damning verdict on the value of those efforts. "The brand was difficult to understand from the outset for customers, for employees, for markets and for investors," it says. "The plurality of brands in the marketplace has created much complexity and unfortunately weakened the power of the Air France brand."

Brooking no argument, it adds: "The simplification of the brand portfolio, while capitalising on the Air France mother brand, is an undeniable asset for our employees, our customers, and indeed all stakeholders."

At the time of Joon's launch, it was described by chief executive Jean-Michel Mathieu as "Air France's little sister, who breaks with tradition". But one tradition, it seems, remains robust: that in which a legacy carrier's loudly heralded new operating unit – such as Lufthansa's Jump – is deemed to have outlived its usefulness following a breakthrough with unions.

Source: Cirium Dashboard