Editorial: Our complex world requires simplicity

What a month of January full of surprises! The news of the air transport, in France, is more intense than ever. Notably at Air France,where the arrival of Ben Smith at the head of the tricolor airline engages many long-awaited changes, and, without boasting, guessed and anticipated by TravelGuys!

A necessary simplification of brands at Air France-KLM

We recently wrotethat, at Air France-KLM, the plethora of brands was very confusing for passengers. With Joon, HOP!, Transavia, Air France and KLM, no less than five brands represented the Franco-Dutch group. With as many different levels of service, different aircraft, different cabins.

For the passenger, it is difficult to find his way, between an airline for Millennials, a low-cost airline, a traditional airline or a so-called premium service not really delivered.

By eliminating Joon and relegating HOP! to the background, Ben Smith has just made the best decision at Air France in more than 15 years: to streamline the Air France and KLM brands by offering clear products, pricing and commercial offers, and a seamless end-to-end experience.

A clearer brand strategy

We can still hope for a number of improvements, such as the multiplication of code-shares on Transavia, which will make it possible to offer useful connections from the provinces at an Orly airport better suited to transfers, for example.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Ben Smith’s progressive approach is moving in the right direction. Even the unions applaud the efforts of the Canadian at the head of the group.

Premium is all about service

Ben Smith’s next big challenge is to tackle service in the airline.

If, with its Dutch sister, the level of service is rather equal from flight to flight, this is not the case with our dear French airline.

Our experience and that of the entire frequent flyer community is very clear: the problem with Air France is the irregularity of service. Of course, the service is human matter, which means that it is very dependent on the mood of the crew.

Monique, the symbol of Air France

But when most of the procedures are not written, it is not possible to ensure an acceptable minimum life expectancy with the new standards expected at the front of the aircraft, in La Première, Business class, and even Premium Economy. Ben Smith will have to deal with the Moniques of the air, those who still think that the customer bothers them while they read their Paris-Match.

Rejoicing in the misfortune of others

With the prospect of a hard Brexit, which will have very significant consequences in the European air transport world, Air France-KLM has an important window of opportunity in 2019.

It has to nibble at an IAG that is likely to find itself in difficulty from March 31, the date of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

With Lufthansa, the Franco-Dutch group can take advantage of the difficulties of operating British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia in the EU.

Like a domino, these beautiful British tails could end up in the Mojave Desert!

Clarifying the positioning of Air France and KLM and improving service should enable them to regain market shares from the British group. Let’s see how Ben Smith plays this card in the coming months.

Alitalia: is there a pilot in the plane?

It never ends: two years that the Alitalia story drags on, without a serious buyer, and without any decision.

When the worm is in the apple, do not hesitate to cut the branch…

Last week, we were supposed to know the fate of Alitalia: nothing happened, no one said anything. However, the synergies with Delta Airlines and Air France are important…

Why doesn’t the Ferrovie dello Stato group make the right decisions, either to sell to Lufthansa or to sell to Delta Airlines and Air France-KLM?

The Italian domestic network is an untapped financial manna for Alitalia. The transalpine airline has not been able to conquer the market, and has allowed low-cost players such as Ryanair and EasyJet, which now operate a number of domestic flights within Italy, to take hold. Meridiana, now operating under the AirItaly banner with a massive investment from Qatar Airways, continues to grow in Italy.

The price war is raging and, instead of increasing its level of service, Alitalia wanted to follow…

The year 2019 will be interesting from all points of view, both in France and in Europe. We at TravelGuys are delighted to be able to decipher this environment… And you, what do you think?

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.

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