Will their own airlines engage Millennial travellers?

15 : 08 : 2017 Travel : Branding : Mobility
Joon by Air France

Modern travel brands should embrace borderless mindsets and reject offensive stereotypes that lump all Millennials into the same category.

Holly Friend, picture researcher, LS:N Global

In July, Air France announced plans to launch sister airline Joon, a ‘lifestyle brand’ and a ‘state of mind’ targeted exclusively at Millennials. Joon will start operating medium-haul flights this autumn and, importantly, will not be a low-cost airline.

What is perhaps most notable about this launch was how explicitly Joon vocalised its target segment. ‘Joon is especially aimed at a young working clientele, the Millennials aged 18 to 35 whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology.’ Hackneyed buzzwords ‘authentic’ and ‘connected’ are further complemented on Joon’s website with promises of aiding impromptu city breaks, fun road trips and co-working sessions.

Air France has yet to release details of where Joon will be flying to or what 'offbeat' services will be available on board, although it has hinted heavily that these will include in-flight access to Instagram. The brand has, however, created a series of videos communicating the flight attendants’ casual uniforms: button-down polo shirts, ankle-grazing trousers and sneakers. Uniquely, the videos feature animated flight attendants posing next to their mix-and-match wardrobes, making them seem more like characters in The Sims than legitimate air stewards.

These videos seem to be aimed at an advertiser-friendly, homogenised species of Millennial that is probably entirely fictional. This risks not only limiting the airline’s customer base by alienating anyone older than 35, but also deterring many of its prized – but nuanced – Millennial customers. After all, we’re talking about a generation that numbers an estimated 1.8bn globally, almost a quarter of the world’s population.

Confusingly, given Joon’s insistence that it understands the Millennial audience – whom we are constantly reminded prefer experiences over products – its premium pricing strategy seems entirely counter-intuitive. Research from American Express on the future of business travel implied that the group do indeed constantly seek value for money when travelling. Are fashionable uniforms, and no-doubt in-flight avocado toast, going to change this core mindset?

The contrived videos released by Joon seem to be aimed at an advertiser-friendly species of Millennial that is probably entirely fictional.

Perhaps a more intelligent approach comes from International Airlines Group (IAG), which launched Level, a geographically neutral budget airline, earlier this year. ‘Today millions of people have grown up with the internet. They have seen the world on a screen,’ reads the brand’s promotional video. ‘They have the curiosity. They have the interest. But what they haven’t had is an airline.’

According to Paul Cardwell, the creative director behind the airline, Level intentionally avoids geographical design cues to appear truly global. ‘Level could be from Japan. Or Scandinavia. Or anywhere,’ Cardwell told It’s Nice That. What better way to speak to this generation’s post-nationality mindset than through creating an airline with the same ethos? Rather than narrowing down its customers’ supposed identity, it is facilitating its expansion.

But, crucially, Level has more to offer than just stylish borderless branding. It is the brand’s enthusiasm to embrace New Bricolage Living through attractive prices that will place Level above its competitors; the airline is offering long-haul flights to destinations including Los Angeles, Oakland and Buenos Aires with fares starting at just £90 ($116, €99).

These new airlines will face challenges. Ultimately, there is nothing stopping non-Millennials flying on these services, and the popularity of comparison sites such as Skyscanner means that novelties will probably be overlooked in favour of convenient flight times and low prices. Modern airlines are certainly needed, especially those that change the aviation industry’s dependency on geographical branding. But these brands should move beyond lazy age segmentation and draw inspiration from Millennials’ global mindsets rather than appropriating them.

To understand how transnationalism and blurring identities will change the way consumers live and travel, read our macrotrend New Bricolage Living.