By Cyril Altmeyer

PARIS (Reuters) - Air France <AIRF.PA> launched a lower-cost airline called Joon on Monday, taking its first small steps into the battle for more budget-conscious customers on long-haul routes.

Low-cost travel between Europe and the Americas has taken off, with upstarts such as Norwegian Air Shuttle <NWC.OL> and Iceland's Wow Air leading the charge and prompting traditional carriers such as IAG <ICAG.L> and Lufthansa <LHAG.DE> to set up their own low-cost, long-haul brands.

British budget carrier easyJet <EZJ.L> is also moving in on long-haul passengers, setting up a system that will allow its passengers to connect at London Gatwick with long-haul flights by Norwegian and WestJet <WJA.TO>.


Air France describes Joon as a hybrid between low-cost and traditional carriers, which it hopes will attract a younger so-called Millennial clientele and restore some routes to profitability.

Companies around the world are targeting Millennials – a term used to describe the tech-savvy generation born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s – as they are expected to drive consumer trends, with many often keen on finding ways to save money.

Joon flights, for example, will have Wifi on board as well as USB charging points at each seat.

Passengers will be able to connect between Air France and Joon flights at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport using one ticket on an Air France code, Jean-Michel Mathieu, head of Joon, told a news conference.

"This will also help to expand the Air France range," he said.

Joon will start with short-haul routes to Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Porto in December, before flying to Fortaleza in Brazil and Seychelles from the end of March 2018.

The airline will have just 10 long-haul planes and 18 short-haul planes by 2020, making it smaller than its rivals.

Single fares to the European cities will start from 39 euros, while fares to Brazil will begin at 249 euros and Seychelles flights will start at 299 euros.

Joon will hire 1,000 cabin crew staff between now and 2020, Air France Chief Executive Franck Terner told reporters. It will initially use Airbus <AIR.PA> A340 aircraft on long-haul routes and switch to more modern A350 planes from 2019.

(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; writing by Victoria Bryan; editing by David Clarke)

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