Air France Group’s Joon plot

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Air France Group’s Joon plot

In the beginning:

-Air France strike attracts media attention.


-Joon starts Paris-Cairo flights.


-The Air France Group (AFG) stopped separating AF and KLM traffic stats.



So where’s the plot?

-Joon was billed and launched as a longhaul no-frills-airline for AFG – Air France, Hop, Joon, KLM, Transavia.


-*See our airline-type definitions below to better understand.


-Cairo is not an NFA operation. Joon’s A340 has three cabin classes and therefore can be considered a lower-cost replacement for costly Air France. *See LCA (low-cost-airline) in the definitions below.


-En passant, Cairo is a medium-haul route, not longhaul as AFG names it.


-Starting February, AFG reverted to its practise of publishing combined traffic results for AF and KLM after a 2-year period of transparency. During that period, we noted that KLM, broadly, was growing twice as fast as AF. Today, KLM is about 67% the size of AF; five years ago it was closer to 50%.


-So initially we thought the move to hiding traffic results was to reduce the awkwardness (in image and in management – AF still manages AFG) for AF that its KL junior partner is becoming an equal partner.


-But perhaps not. Is the move to hide the coming fall in AF traffic as Joon takes over some flights that before would be AF’s? (Note that in our scenario, an LCA can operate on the same routes as the parent airline. In such a case, Joon could simply be providing extra capacity to fill demand on the route.)


-If the plan is indeed to make Joon an LCA, it is a smart business move. This is how a sizeable (above 75mn seats sold?) airline group should be constructed. In the AF case, difficulties with staff (actually a France problem) would require hidden moves like this.


-But in a more transparent liberal business world, it makes good business/service sense to offer a range of services and fares on some routes. Thus the AFG needs to offer some FSA flights on, say, Paris-Berlin early-morning and end-of-business-day, then perhaps one LCA flight mid-day, and NFA flights at weekends.


-Under our definitions, AFG has two FSAs (AF and KLM), one LCA (Joon), and one NFA (Transavia). And Hop.


-Hop? If Joon is a smart move, Hop was dumb. It operates on regional routes with smaller aircraft, both higher cost, and aims for FSA levels of service, so higher costs, on routes where the pressure for lower fares is strong. As this strategy must be a loss-maker (no separate figures, financial or traffic, are published), Hop will probably be shut down in the next two years, although that could mean a face-saving merge into AF or even Joon.


*Notes: Our airline-type definitions:

-FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.


-LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a no-frills-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs – cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for example), fewer fare types, may have first and business cabins as well as economy, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. If relevant, usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.


-NFA = no-frills-airline. We believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: shorthaul point-to-point routes; market freedom in terms of fares, routes; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; extremely-low fares when bought at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no (free) service frills; single economy-class cabin; no (free) seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more.


The Fox

Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.


*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

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Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

Relaunched Air Belgium has delayed plans for its Brussels-Hong Kong flights to April; they were planned to start October 2017.


It plans to start six more routes into China by this summer.


We expect AB’s new businessplan, from new owners in 2016, to fail before year-end. Some of the reasons:


-Frequency/routes. 4/week is not enough for its target market – upmarket. At least daily is needed.


-Routes. AB’s potential customers will fly other to other places as well of course, thus use other airlines. As most upmarket travellers are likely to be members in loyalty programs, they may prefer to stay with those other airlines when they fly to Hong Kong. If AB cannot start other routes itself, it should sign deals with other airlines on selected routes.


-Aircraft. The 4-engine A340 is a good aircraft, but costly for fuel, particularly for a start-up airline. Many would try to operate a 2-engine A350 or B787 on this route if traffic is not enough for B777s A380s etc.


-It has two A340s at present. That is enough for schedule reliability for Hong Kong flights, but at least four more will be needed to operate those other planned routes and to offer schedule reliability.


-Airport. AB plans to use Brussels Charleroi, not good for connections.


-China. AB considers Hong Kong a ‘China’ destination. Although correct in theory, it is not ‘China’ in terms of politics or in airline route-rights. Six by summer is not impossible of course, but looks over-ambitious.


-Sales via internet, but also GDS and travel agencies. GDS and agencies are usually too costly for a start-up because of fees.


-AB plans to employ 100 in Hong Kong this year. That is a foolishly-costly decision. We would think one staff member (Hong Kong Manager), with a handling agent for operations, and a GSA for sales – at least until it is established and/or the first 2/3 years.


-AB’s A340s will have economy, premium, business classes. That is at least one too many, and will also cause confusion, eg is ‘premium’ above ‘business’?


The Fox

*Trottings = Trip Jottings



Misleading WTTC reports

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Misleading WTTC reports

WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), a lobby group for the travel business, has published a series of comprehensive reports* for selected markets – some measures comparable, some not.


Unfortunately, the group is so careless in its presentations that the professional observer is sometimes left to guess what WTTC’s research shows. We believe its presentations are in contrast with the professionalism of its research.


As a result, the following is our (abridged) list of WTTC’s findings, with comments where necessary.


(Note: WTTC mainly uses the awkward term ‘travel and tourism’*, which we change to the more-practical ‘travel business’*, abbreviated here to TB. Data for 2017, unless noted otherwise.)


[] World.

-TB turnover +4.6%. Visitor spend +4.3%. GDP growth a WTTC-rounded +3%.


[] North Africa.

-TB turnover (overall GDP, TB’s share of GDP): +22.6%; Egypt US$21.1bn +72.9% (+4.1%, 11.0%); Tunisia US$5.7bn +7.6% (WTTC-rounded +2%, 14.2%); Turkey US$98.4bn WTTC-rounded +17% (+7.0%, 11.6%). Note Turkey is part in Europe, part in Asia (Minor), which is sometimes a reason for including it in the Middle East. Including it in North Africa is incorrect.

-‘…well on track to return to pre-crisis levels’. Without a date, this is meaningless commentary; it was on that track the moment the TB stopped falling.


[] Australia.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$156bn/A$197.5bn +2.3% (+2.2%).


[] Canada.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$108bn/C$138.8bn +4.5% (a WTTC-rounded +3%). In a separate report, WTTC puts growth as +5.5%.


[] China.

-TB turnover +9.8%.


[] France.

-TB 50% faster than world average. Wrong? The same report showed that this was a comparison with the visitor business, not the overall TB.

-Visitors to France spent US$54.7bn (at US$1 to €0.81) +6.4%.

-TB turnover US$252.2bn, an 8.9% share.


[] Germany.

-TB turnover US$429.8bn +1.7%.


[] India.

-Forecast to overtake Germany as #3 by 2028.


[] Indonesia.

-TB turnover US$57bn/Rph787.1tn +6.4%; overall GDP +5.1%.

-Forecast +6.4% annual average growth rate 2018-27.


[] Italy.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$275.6bn +2.7%, a WTTC-rounded 13% share (+1.6%).

-Visitor spend US$48.9bn +6.5%.


[] Japan.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$350bn/¥37.1tn +3.4% (+1.6%).

-Forecasts 40mn visitors in 2020. Not clear if this is a WTTC forecast or a restatement of Japan’s government’s target.


[] Saudi Arabia.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$64bn/R240.9bn +4.6% (a WTTC-rounded +1%), a 9.4% share of GDP.


[] Spain.

-TB turnover a WTTC-rounded +7%.


[] UK.

-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$297bn/a-WTTC-rounded-£214bn +6.2% (+1.5%).

-Visitors +6.7%, outbound travellers +2.5% (+7.8% 2016, +9.9% 2015), domestic travellers +5.8%, spend by visitors to UK +7.9%, spend by domestic travellers +5.8%.


[] US.


-TB turnover (overall GDP): US$1.5tn +2.3% world’s largest (same, +2.3%).


-WTTC has its own methodology for calculating the turnover of the travel business including not just inbound, outbound, and domestic travel, but other industries involved in the business. For instance, if 0.5% of the world’s cars go into the car-rental business, that measure will be calculated into the turnover of the overall travel business.


Unfortunately, WTTC is not always clear that its data is related to this grand total, and often its commentary appears to be related to just one sector – often, the inbound visitor business. In addition, it sometimes uses the terms ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’ alone; we cannot always determine if these mean something different from ‘travel & tourism’.


WTTC’s name does not help – the ‘TT’ is ‘travel & tourism’, where we would define ‘travel’ as covering all segments of the travel business, with ‘tourism’ meaning ‘leisure travel’ to most observers – just one segment. This means that most people and bodies the WTTC lobbies may think they are discussing just inbound leisure travel.


-Most US$ figures are our conversions from WTTC figures.


A report on this topic in our Travel Business Analyst newsletter contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.



WTTC Research Director Rochelle Turner responds:

The methodology that WTTC uses aligns to the UN a statistical Methodology for accounting for Travel & Tourism (TSA RMF:2008).  

The definition of the sector from the TSA RMF:2008 is as follows: ‘the activity of persons travelling to and staying in places outside of their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not remunerated from within the place visited’. 

Our approach has been independently audited and is fully available for view on our website, All country regions are fully explained on the final pages within each country report. 


The Fox

Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.


*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Bigger Trump slump in US visitors

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Bigger Trump slump in US visitors


Trump Slump 1

Normally we would not analyse data for one month so thoroughly. But these are not normal times, thus this analysis – this one primarily on Jan-Sep.


There was slight improvement in Q3. Jan-Sep total visitors fell -3.8%, compared with Jan-Jun -3.9%, although September turned worse, -5.0%. The main reason for the worsening was results in the ‘overseas’ markets (all except Canada, Mexico) – -6.3% -5.7% but -8.7%.


Of the regions we track (calculations from US DMO’s data) indicate worsening for Europe -2.3 -2.6 but -4.0, and for Asia Pacific -1.7 -0.9 but -3.2.


Overall then, it appears the Trump Slump is worsening.


Other comments:

[] 11 markets in top-20 are getting better (faster growth or slower fall; Jan-Jun compared with Jan-Sep). Those getting worse (slower growth or faster fall) are (in size order): Canada, China, Korea, Germany, India, Italy, Colombia, Spain, Sweden.


[] Ignoring for a moment precise reporting, markets essentially unchanged (Sep compared with Jan-Sep) are Canada, Mexico, UK, Germany, India.


[] Biggest turns for the worst (Sep compared with Jan-Sep) are Japan (to -7% Sep from +0% Jan-Sep), China (-7 -6), Italy (-4 +3), Spain (-1 +3), Argentina (-36 -22), Netherlands (-6 +2), Colombia (-26 -12).


[] A rare Trump Bump. Korea soars forward at +18% Jan-Sep, same Jan-Jun, and +23% September.




Trump Slump 2

Forward Keys, a research company, tracks travel based on air bookings. Some of its findings on travel to the US:

[] For all-2017 air bookings were -2.0%. This year Jan/Feb was down fractionally, -0.02%.


[] FK reports that the fall in the value of the UK- against the US-currency, following the UK’s mid-2016 vote to leave the European Union, discouraged many UK would-be travellers. The UK is the US’s largest market after contiguous Canada and Mexico.


[] FK says visitors from China flattened in 2017 after substantial growth in 2016. Our database on actual arrivals shows something different – a -6% fall over Jan-Sep 17, but +15% Jan-Dec 16.


[] Outlook is better. FK reports international bookings to the US from within the Americas are +7%, and longhaul bookings from elsewhere are just +0.5% ahead. However, if ‘Americas includes the contiguous markets of Canada and Mexico, these two alone swing the total.


[] FK says Mexico forward bookings to August are +28.9%. Again, this contrasts our 2017 data, which shows -8% Jan-Sep 17.


[] Brazil forward bookings for the same period +24.8%.


[] US destinations. FK reports Florida as the biggest destination in the US, although we have New York City the largest single destination. FK reports Florida -1.0%.


A report on this topic in our Travel Business Analyst newsletter contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.



The Fox

Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.


*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.