Experience Virtual Reality headsets on flights between Mumbai & Paris from 18 June

Air France has announced the transfer of its flight between Paris & Mumbai to its low cost subsidiary Joon, starting 18th June 2018. The flights will be operated by the A340-300 aircraft and will offer a revamped product. The services will continue to operate with the Air France code (AF) with a minor revision in flight timings. The new flights will operate as below

AF218 CDG 1140 – 0005 BOM

AF217 BOM 0155 – 0805 CDG

What changes for the customers?

Air France will continue to sell tickets on Air France / SkyTeam partners beyond Paris and on Jet Airways to 44 destinations in India. Flying Blue members can earn and spend miles if you have Ivory Silver, Gold or Platinum status. Business, Flying Blue Gold and Platinum customers will continue to access the Air France lounges and enjoy SkyPriority access at security checks, check-in, boarding and baggage drop-off.

So what exactly changes?

Major change is towards the product. While formally the airline was formed to cater to millennials, the ulterior motive was to reduce the costs by shifting older aircraft, signing new crew contracts and giving a tougher fight on routes dominated by LCCs in Europe.

Passengers will be able to rent Allosky – virtual reality headsets to enjoy a fully immersive cinema experience during the flight. This is in addition to access to YouJoon – the in-flight streaming system on own smartphone, tablet or laptop which has entertainment programs like TV series, cartoons, music. There will also be individual touch-screens. The Allosky headset is 2D & 3D capable with full HD resolution and light weight of 125gms with WiFi & Bluetooth connectivity.

While the airline will offer meals on long haul flights unlike its buy on board service in economy on short haul, there will be organic, natural or gourmet products available for sale.

Where is Joon placed?

Air France operates other subsidiaries like Hop! and holds stake in Transavia France – a subsidiary of dutch airline transavia, which is run independently with any code share or interline with mainline Air France. Joon was launched as a millennial centric airline and has been operating services in Europe. While the business class remains same as mainline Air France, the economy class saw Buy on board service. The major change was the branding – which resembles the youth and the crew uniforms – going away from the formal to sneakers and t-shirts and denims.

Joon will fly to 14 destinations in 2018 and the medium/long haul network will see flights to Cairo, Cape Town, Mahe, Mumbai and Tehran.

India France market

Air France, its Indian Joint Venture partner Jet Airways and Indian national carrier Air India operate between India and France.

As of today the airline has been operating the A330-200 aircraft with a capacity of 40 Business, 21 premium economy and 147 economy class seats and the A340s come with 30 Business, 21 Premium economy and 224 economy class seats. This will be an increase of 50% seats in economy class, with a 25% reduction in the front cabin.

If DGCA statistics are to be believed, Air France carries a little above 40,000 passengers to Paris & beyond from Mumbai each quarter.

India-France Air Services Agreement allows 35 services per week per country. Indian side sees Jet Airways utilize 12 per week and Air India utilize 7 per week while Air France operates 21 services per week with flights to Delhi, Mumbai & Bengaluru.

What next?

With launch of KLM to Mumbai, the Delta – Air France – KLM – Virgin Atlantic – Jet Airways combination is trying hard to fight the Middle Eastern carriers on one hand and European competition of Lufthansa – SN Brussels – Swiss combination on the other to get a pie out of the large market of Western India.

Will the increase in seats be a downgrade in service? Air France is a seasoned carrier in India and has been carrying good loads despite occasional negative publicity. The shift is more likely for a lower cost structure to offer competitive fares and grab larger share of the market. This could also be a ploy to prepare for competition from Indian low cost carriers planning widebody operations to Europe and future expansion of Vistara.

Time will tell if the millennial centric airline will attract passengers or will see a backlash from loyal passengers of Air France.

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