Instead of joining the long line of companies chasing Millennials, JAL plans to target older passengers, their grandparents, instead.
According to a senior JAL executive quoted in this article from the SCMP, seniors used to fly business class and after retirement they want to go overseas but they say prices are too high and planes are too full.
The new airline (as yet un-named) is expected to take off from 2020, as Tokyo prepares to host the Olympics. It will fly to destinations in Europe and the US that are not served by JAL to prevent cannibalising the main brand.
Other than specially training for cabin crew to serve older people, just what the airline will do differently to appeal to the older traveller is not yet clear.
Purposely running the airline at less than 80% capacity (as indirectly requested by the older travellers) is not a sound business basis for a new carrier, but perhaps more space is the key.
While there is no doubt that older passengers are growing in number and have the time and wealth to travel, airlines are essentially, an age-neutral product. All airlines should design their customer experiences accordingly. In this age of demographic upheaval, targeting different age segments is un-necessary and limiting strategy.
Better to ensure that the customer experience (communications – online – retail – ground and in-flight services) and the entire service element that surrounds this journey, are designed to accomodate the unique needs of older customers, without making anyone feel un-wanted. For example, I wonder how the new carrier deal with the inevitable need for more toilets on board?
We call this Lifetime Customer Experience.
JAL needs to be careful with it’s positioning. People (young or old) will not be attracted by the overt proposition of ‘an airline for older people’. They will more likely be attracted to a discount airline that offers greater value + comfort, greater passenger empathy (including staff skilled in the needs of older passengers) or some other age-transcending attitudinal benefit.