There was a theory that separate segments of an airlines structure, especially say, domestic and regional, because they were specialised and mostly about internal and local flights from non-hub city pairs, needed their own branding.
They needed to be separate, different and distinct from the primary airline as they had little or nothing to do with it. AirFrance for example, was the international, long distance arm, so didn’t need to be bothered with regional flights.
That was sort of true almost everywhere. Lufthansa Cityline, BA Cityflyer, AirFrance Régional, KLM Cityhopper and so on. They all had them, and the US market was full of them too.
But as airline operations have become ever more cost conscious, price sensitive and have had to face the low cost airlines on almost every conceivable city pair going, the concept has gone out of fashion.
Added to that is a modern perception that branding is everything. The same has happened in the US – all those once well-known regional players have been subsumed or morphed into operators that display only their primary airlines livery and branding.
HOP! is an agglomeration of the previous French regional airlines that actually had more of an AirFrance flavour. And that’s its problem. Nobody really sees it as AirFrance any more.
AirFrance-KLM Group CEO, Canadian Ben Smith, new to the French airline industry after Air Canada, looks at it with clear eyes and with little or no knowledge as to HOP! origins.
And that’s probably from a commercial perspective the best possible way of looking at it. If as a stranger you can’t look at anything and know what it does and how it operates, why would you conclude it has any point when its real purpose is to feed AirFrance, support it, drive business into it, connect to it.
How do new customers know it does that? The simple answer is that they don’t. In the Millennial world of Ben Smith, who has little regard for historical values or norms, just commercial sensibilities, HOP! has almost the same value as Joon. Does it support AirFrance, does it bring in transfer passengers? Do customers know it can? Again, seemingly not. So why is it a separate airline? Can we save money by integrating it into Air France proper? Nobody can answer the first question adequately well, and the second answer is almost certainly yes.
HOP! currently operates too many variants of aircraft as well, no less than 8 in a fleet of 76, and none in especially large numbers. Fleet costs are always a big issue and it inherited far too many types from its constituent airlines.
6 x ATR 42-500, 1 x ATR 72-500, 6 x ATR 72-600, 15 x CL-600’s, 10 x CL-700’s, 13 x ERJ-145’s, 15 x ERJ-170’s, 11 x ERJ-190’s Make up the fleet.
So HOP! is almost certainly for the chop, its days numbered in the age of consolidation, unified branding, apps and integrated social media marketing. Plus, it’ll be cheaper to run, and that means bigger profits, and that’s the bottom line.