During the Air France event for FlyerTalkers, we had the chance to meet Alexandre de Juniac, the airline CEO. He enthusiastically answered the audience’s questions. I’ll try to give you the main points we talked about with him and the impression we had.
First of all, I would like to thank him again, in the name of all FlyerTalkers, for the time he spent with us. It shows how important customers are to him. We immediately felt how implicated he was and how curious he was to hear our compliments as well as our criticism.
The ambition of Air France
From the first minutes, he made clear the goal of the company : Air France wants to recover by 2013/2014 and to be the world number one by 2016 and to take his words « the airline on which it’s impossible not to travel ». Very ambitious isn’t it ? But impossible, it doesn’t seem so to Mr de Juniac’s eyes and he explained us then how to achieve this goal.
First of all, costs. They need to be reduced and Air France is already working on it.
Secondly, the personal. FlyerTalkers obviously raised the question of strikes which are well-known in France. Recalling the new French laws concerning strikes, Air France CEO told us that from now on, strikers have to inform their hierarchy of their strike intentions at least two days before its beginning. This means that the airline can better prepare solutions and replacements to avoid big problems and cancellations.
Thirdly, the fleet efficiency. The Air France fleet is one of the youngest in the world with an average of 8,9 years. Past investments in the fleet were well made and aircrafts in the fleet today are very efficient. To save money, Air France will not invest in new aircrafts during a few years. In 2014, the average age of the fleet will still be young with 10 years.
Finally, Air France is leading a quality improvement in all the cabins. Mr de Juniac knows that improvements must be made and has assured us that in the future and beginning in 2013, new cabins will be installed. And exclusive information, in 2013 there will be a whole new first-class ! We can’t wait to discover it !!
A merger with Alitalia ?
The question of a merger with Alitalia was also raised. 25% of Alitalia belongs today to Air France and nothing will move until January 2013. After the recovery of Air France in 2013/2014 the hypothesis of a merger is feasible. For Mr. de Juniac, the logic of three hubs in Europe with Air France-KLM-Alitalia in Paris CDG, Amsterdam Schiphol and Rome Fiumicino makes completely sense. We’ll see !
Low-cost carriers’ future
Mr de Juniac also gave his feelings about low-cost carriers’ future. First of all, this type of airline is born in the US. What happens there gives the trend of the future in Europe. As Delta resists quite good against the low-cost Southwest Airlines, Air France CEO believes that « traditional » airlines can be quite confident for the future.
Furthermore travelers can be divided in three segments :
- Travelers who look for a price rather than a travel experience. These people will always travel with the cheapest airline, Air France can’t compete on this segment.
- Travelers with high or middle budget who look for an experience. They travel on short- and medium-haul flight and Air France wants to improve its services on that segment.
- Travelers who hesitate between good prices and services. Here an important question is raised for Air France. What will they sell apart or as supplement ? Luggages like low-cost airlines ?… A question that is tough to answer for Air France. This is why Air France-KLM thinks to an extension of Transavia, their low-cost subsidiary which operates business destinations for the moment and which could be extended to leisure destinations. If Transavia operates leisure destinations, it will directly compete with easyJet. The orange airline on the other hand is trying to conquer business destinations. For Mr de Juniac, this is clearly the sign that competition between traditional and low-cost carriers tends to become fairer and more balanced.
The future of Skyteam
When encouraging FlyerTalkers to share with him their dissatisfactions, Air France CEO received a comment about the difference of prices for an identical flight according to the website of the member of Skyteam.
Mr de Juniac confirmed us that the final objective of the alliance is to merge all the systems. But this can’t be done so easily and this coordination will take years.
He gave the example of the exploitation at the airport of New-York JFK. A part of one terminal there belongs to Air France. It allows Air France to save money on the exploitation and this is why the airline doesn’t change its terminal of operations to join the Delta one.
And even if (and it’s quite normal) there are service disparities in the members of Skyteam, CEOs are aware of it and try to harmonize the quality delivered.
Once again, it was very kind of Mr de Juniac to share this moment with us. It shows how important customers are to his eyes. He seems to be a very human leader, fully conscious that an airline doesn’t exist without its customers.
We also noticed during these two days when talking with managers that they all paid a lot of attention to our comments or advices. Air France wants to improve to satisfy its customers. They all know that the only way for the airline to recover is to seduce travelers with the best service quality.
Finally, to conclude the session, we thanked Mr de Juniac and he answered « Thanks; but it is due to one thing, the commitment of our 70 000 guys, all this for you. » A very nice moment !