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Old Jan 7, 13, 1:00 am   #1
 
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AF launches Economy Mini class

According to an article in Le Monde (in French, sorry, but for a basic translation I suppose Google translate is an option), AF are creating a new price category which I believe can be resumed as follows:
  • from 49€ one-way (~20€ cheaper than standard Eco tickets)
  • 58 destinations (~40 from ORY, MRS, TLS and NCE)
  • No baggage allowance (priced at 15€)
  • No changes or refunds allowed
  • No FB segments or miles
  • Food, beverages and newspapers included

Reservations are apparently live today for flights starting February 6th.
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Old Jan 7, 13, 1:34 am   #2
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Just checked some dates in March for ORY-MRS:
  • pricing is available on a one-way basis
  • the mini-offer is indeed EUR 20 cheaper than the classic offer
  • the classic offer is not more expensive than the current, non-promotional offers

This new offer could indeed be interesting for passengers hesitating between LCCs, TGV (not to TLV,though ) and Air France. It is attractively priced and available on a wide range of flights. It would be interesting to know more about effective advanced purchase requirements, but as the new offer is not available until February 6th, it is hard to evaluate at this stage.

In any case, as I travel mostly out of CDG, even for domestic flights, I am not directly impacted by this new offer. If it had been deployed to intra-European flights out of CDG, it would have undermined the value of the Premium fares in my eyes. On the other hand, introducing "Abonnés" fares in the Premium cabin on medium-haul flights ex-CDG, slightly cheaper than current A fares, would definitely get my attention.

Last edited by JOUY31; Jan 7, 13 at 2:48 am..
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Old Jan 7, 13, 1:59 am   #3
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So I presume no lounge access for Elite Plus members travelling on these fares?
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Old Jan 7, 13, 2:29 am   #4
 
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Indeed it would be interesting whether status benefits will be honoured. Seats towards the front of the plane, SkyPriority check-in, lounges, use of the Club phone line. Obviously no extra piece of luggage or miles, but all the other things?
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Old Jan 7, 13, 2:42 am   #5
 
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Welcome to Air France the high cost, low service airline.

But this is not even just the death of AF as a full service airline that we are witnessing, it is also even more of a vulgar lie than expected. Not only is Air France now starting their new 'low cost airline' model and not offering checked luggage, miles, possibility to choose your seats or possibility to change your tickets unless you pay extra to get this, but there is absolutely no reduction in price as a result. All the flights that are now charged €49 single + booking fee were regularly priced €48 single + booking fee during regular long terms promotions (i.e. bookable for periods of several months last year for travel for travel 365 days a year) for a full service product. I should know because I booked quite a few of them.

In fact, many of the prices in 'mini' are effectively significantly more expensive than prices in what would have been 'classic' just a few days ago: for example, the price of a NCE-TLV has jumped from €107 single for an Air France (rest in peace) experience to €139 and return in mini from €217 to €317 for a no change, no miles, no luggage, no selected seat experience, so an increase of nearly +50% to lose all the services of a full service airline except for a drink, snack, and newspaper.

So is AF competitive with this new lowest-quality-possible service? You decide. An Easyjet NCE-CDG or NCE-VCE start at €28 one way, while an NCE-CDG or NCE-VCE flight on AF will start at €49 one way. The advantages of AF are that for that price you get a soft drink (or wine or beer on the VCE flight), a biscuit, and a newspaper. The advantages of Easyjet is that your flight is changeable, you can even take any earlier flight on that day for free on a standby basis, you fly with a far less uncomfortable seat, and as everyone treated the same you are less likely to be treated like a third class citizen.

If I were to give AF a mark from 0-10 on its new "Mini" offer, I would give it a 1 just for introducing one way pricing, which an increasing number of other airlines have managed to introduce without increasing prices or transforming into low cost airlines (BA or LX to/from GVA being prime examples: low fares, fuller bar, better snacks, free luggage, fares one way and changeable, and FF miles on every fare). Today AF has managed to simultaneously:

- exited the full service airline category and should be regarded as a low cost airline whiich will only give you full service on short and medium haul if you pay extra for it. She has placed herself on a lower category than the BA and LX's of this world;

- priced herself out of the low cost competition which she has just decided to enter: for a low cost product, AF is absolutely not competitive against the U2, AB, or DY of this world, which all offer a better and more flexible product at a significantly lower cost (unless you are lucky enough to get a specific day/flight where AF randomly happens to be cheaper);

- continued to lie to passengers and play them for xxx by claiming to lower her prices while she has in fact simultaneously increased fares and drastically lowered service standards on multiple destinations.

- make the experience worse for all customers, both 'mini' who are losing out and 'classic' who will implicitly be losing out because people will carry even more hand luggage on already over-burdened domestic flights since they won't want to pay the luggage fee, will try to change seats because they won't like the ones they couldn't choose etc.

My perception is that transporting luggage is a cost for an airline and I would have accepted that AF started charging for that if (1) they at least symbolically lowered the fare without luggage, (2) did not start lowering the product by withdrawing things (such as seat choice and miles earning) which distinguish the AF brand from a low cost brand and cost them nothing (or virtually nothing considering the minimal miles earnings). Instead, AF have deliberately made their product worse just for the sake of adding a fully artificial form of differenciation between their new offer and their old offer rebranded new and better while being the exact same. This, to me, is disastrous brand management.


Last edited by orbitmic; Jan 7, 13 at 3:04 am..
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Old Jan 7, 13, 2:48 am   #6
 
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Well, it will be very interesting to see how AF will handle status on these fares...

1. MILES
My guess is that we will receive no miles, because status gives us +50, +75 or +100%... and +100% of 0 is still 0.
Let's hope AF will at least give status legs... Hope... Hope.. et hop ;-)

2. BAGAGE
Here's the interesting question IMHO. Since the rule is to be allowed 1 extra bagage, the math could be 0 allowed by fare + 1 allowed by status = 1 bagage.

3. LOUNGE ACCESS
IMHO lounge access will be granted to Gold and Plat. Would be hard to handle...

4. PRIORITY LIST
I think this perk will remain. As well as business class check-in.
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:05 am   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by volerbleu View Post
Well, it will be very interesting to see how AF will handle status on these fares...

1. MILES
Let's hope AF will at least give status legs... Hope... Hope.. et hop ;-)
I would personally rate this one as highly unlikely. But it is just a guess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by volerbleu View Post
2. BAGAGE
Here's the interesting question IMHO. Since the rule is to be allowed 1 extra bagage, the math could be 0 allowed by fare + 1 allowed by status = 1 bagage.
Here's La Tribune's perspective, although journalists can occasionally be wrong:

Quote:
Ce tarif à 49 euros TTC n'est pas modifiable (même avec frais), ne permet pas de cumuler des miles (une petite révolution) ni d'enregistrer gratuitement un bagage en soute de moins de 23 kilogrammes (sauf pour les membres « Silver », « Gold » ou « Platine » du programme de fidélisation Flying Blue qui y ont droit de facto). L'enregistrement du bagage sera désormais proposé en option payante : 15 euros si l'enregistrement est effectué en ligne, 30 euros s'il est fait à l'aéroport.

Last edited by JOUY31; Jan 7, 13 at 3:23 am..
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:14 am   #8
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Please, keep this "enhancement" at AF, and don't bring it to KL!
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:17 am   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post
Please, keep this "enhancement" at AF, and don't bring it to KL!
Well, this AF policy is applicable to domestic flights and to non-hub routes. Hard to replicate the context at KL .
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:20 am   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JOUY31 View Post
Well, this AF policy is applicable to domestic flights and to non-hub routes.
For the moment... I wouldn't bet on this still being the case in one year from now...
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:21 am   #11
 
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How many miles for a Eindhoven - Rotterdam flight?
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:37 am   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by volerbleu View Post

2. BAGAGE
Here's the interesting question IMHO. Since the rule is to be allowed 1 extra bagage, the math could be 0 allowed by fare + 1 allowed by status = 1 bagage.
My guess there will be no free luggage based on Elite level as it would severely undermine this product.
However, I can understand your rationale. From the KLM website it is defined as follows:

Quote:
Flying Blue Silver, Gold and Platinum members and SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus members may bring 1 piece of check-in baggage in addition to the standard allowance.
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:38 am   #13
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The Air France press kit

To confirm orbitmic's analysis on one issue:

Quote:
This new MiNi fare is initially available on domestic flights from Paris-Orly operated or leased by Air France and on most* medium-haul flights on departure from the regional bases in Marseille, Nice and Toulouse. It will then be extended to other medium-haul routes at a later date.
On another issue:
Quote:
With this fare, lower than the Classic fare, customers cannot choose their seat when checking in online, but once they arrive at the airport, they can change the seat that has been assigned to them on a space available basis.
For the Classic fares, in case of a change, no mention is made of availability of fare class:
Quote:
The ticket is also modifiable up to the latest check-in time. If the customer changes his mind, he may exchange the dates and itinerary of his ticket for a set sum of 70 euros.
And, most importantly:
Quote:
Whether they have opted for a MiNi or Classic fare, all Elite and Elite Plus customers enjoy all the benefits of their particular status and can check in one additional free piece of checked baggage weighing up to 23kg.

At the airport, regardless of the fare paid, Elite Plus customers traveling in Economy also benefit from all the advantages of the SkyPriority channels, from check-in up to baggage claim. They have free access to all lounges on the medium-haul and short-haul network.
Air France!

Except for the possible extension of this new offer to medium-haul routes from the hub, I personally find little to criticize in this offer, given my personal travel pattern.

Last edited by JOUY31; Jan 7, 13 at 3:51 am..
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:38 am   #14
 
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Sharp analysis, as ever by orbitmic.

Just one question and one remark if I may.

Q: Is it true that the new offering does not allow pax to select their seat? Is it going to be free seating in a dedicated part of the cabin? Or will it be the already existing "we send you an email with your boarding pass" (which already is enough of a zoo, no need to go any further)?

Remark: orbitmic, you wrote "exited the full service airline category and should be regarded as a low cost airline". Actually it's worse. From a pax point of view it's all of those things that you describe, but from an overall strategy/positioning point of view I observe an increasing "bmi-ization". What I mean by that is a multiplication of offers, positionings, target segments, etc. Let's juts recall that in its final days bmi was:

  • A full service legacy carrier to a niche market in the Middle East/Central Asia region, with the added complexity of managing that business in a separate entity
  • A legacy airline with full service C and Y service from mainstream airports, on routes such as LHR-DUB and LHR-AMS
  • A Y-only full service airline on domestic routes to LHR
  • An LCC flying with mainline jets to holiday destinations from LHR
  • A full service regional carrier in niche markets within the UK (Norwich-Aberdeen and the like)
  • And it was going to launch routes from hub airports to secondary, LCC-type airports (BRU-LTN)

Surely I missed some or mis-described some others, but the bouquet of positionings and markets was mind-boggling - and unsustainable. The airline paid the price for not having one common theme across all these activities. We all know how it ended.

Surely AFKL starts from a different position. It isn't the challenger in its home markets to start with. But still the myriad of things that this company tries to be is just amazing:

  • A top-notch longhaul carrier for AF from CDG, where the airline invests money for new seats, new service, etc. and promises to be "on par with the top Asian carriers". The fact that the new seats will only be rolled out to some planes already introduces an element of heterogeneity, but there's more
  • A medium-quality longhaul carrier for KL from AMS
  • A medium-quality full service carrier on mainline European routes from CDG in the front cabins
  • A higher quality full service carrier on mainline European routes from AMS in the front cabins
  • A cheap full service carrier on European mainline routes from CDG in the back cabins, dto. for KL from AMS
  • A cheap full service carrier for high fare paying pay on domestic routes from ORY
  • An expensive LCC on some mainline routes ("Mini")
  • An expensive LCC for the former Regional/BritAir routes
  • A full service carrier on business routes for parts of Cityjet (LCY-AMS etc)
  • A full service carrier on odd secondary routes for the rest of Cityjet (LCY-FMO etc)
  • A holiday carrier for Transavia

I am leaning back in my seat with a bag of popcorn to watch this drama unfold in front of my eyes...

There have been and there still are some positive news coming out of AF, both for pax and for the company's operations. But then every now and then things like this come up and scratch my head wondering if they hear the mortar shells landing very close to them
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Old Jan 7, 13, 3:42 am   #15
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[Pedant mode on]

I'd just like to point out that, in its final days, bmi had not been on the LHR-AMS route mentioned above. It stopped flying that route almost 3 years ago, and furthermore, closed Diamond Club membership to Dutch members, sending us into the sweaty clutches of Lufthansa's Miles & More. (The same fate befell Belgian and Israeli members).

Good Bye BMI Amsterdam

Also, by the time it finished, it wasn't quite full service in Y, in that one had to pay for anything consumed on board.
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