“Travelers Are Returning to the Skies. Some In-Flight Magazines Aren’t.”

From a Wall Street Journal story by Katie Deighton headlined “Travelers Are Returning to the Skies. Some In-Flight Magazines Aren’t.”:

American Airlines announced that after 55 years in seat pockets, the latest issue of its in-flight magazine, American Way, will be its last….The company said it has been focused on enhancing digital content designed to occupy passengers.

American joins the club of airlines choosing to throw their in-flight magazines on the scrapheap. Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines last year removed their in-flight magazines as a hygiene precaution at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic; both said they had no plans to bring them back.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways in February said it would be replacing its paper Tsubasa Global Wings publication with a digital version available on its website and app….The moves echo the contraction of the broader print magazine industry as digital media took hold.

Airline magazines long enjoyed benefits that others didn’t, including a guaranteed, captive and thumb-twiddling audience. But the spread of smartphones, laptops and tablets powered by onboard Wi-Fi is bringing that chapter to a close for some carriers.

“It used to be much more frequently the case that people would reach for the magazine for lack of anything else to keep them occupied during the course of the flight,” said Gary Leff, a frequent flier and author of the air travel blog View From the Wing….

American said customers’ modern tendency to turn to their devices for entertainment was the driving force behind the closure of American Way—a title that was once prominent enough for the satirical publication the Onion to joke that American was closing passenger service to focus on the magazine.

The airline, which said it now has Wi-Fi installed on the majority of its planes, has in the past few years increased its digital entertainment offering beyond movies and television shows to include meditation exercises, basic language learning classes, live concerts and online creativity courses including “Travel Photography: Seeing, Shooting, and Editing”…

Destination guides and lifestyle programming will also come from a new partnership with the publishing house Condé Nast….The airline from July 1 will play videos created under the mastheads of magazines including Vogue, GQ and Condé Nast Traveler on its lifestyle entertainment channel. The content can be viewed at no cost on seat-back screens or personal devices connected to the in-flight Wi-Fi network….

United Airlines brought its Hemispheres magazine back onto planes this month after mailing it to members of its premium loyalty programs throughout the pandemic. And Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said its Vera publication is set to make a comeback to seat pockets in August.

Both publications are produced by Ink, a media agency based in the U.K. that also produced American Way. Ink will continue to produce for American a video series called “American Destinations,” which will play alongside the new Condé Nast content on the in-flight lifestyle entertainment channel….

Its co-chief executive, Michael Keating, said other in-flight magazines will survive as part of a broader media mix, primarily because of their strength as a marketing channel that more than 80% of fliers pick up and read….

“Having a broad entertainment offering is great for the customer, but does nothing for airline marketing,” Mr. Keating said. “Watching live news, sports or a movie doesn’t upsell the airline’s network or inspire a traveler’s next trip.”

For Mr. Leff, the air travel blogger, the in-flight magazine still has its charms—as long as the quality is on par with other editorial he could find online.

“There is something to the serendipity of discovering something you wouldn’t have otherwise, and being appealed to as a traveler, that many travelers enjoy,” he said.


  1. Ted Craig says

    The Southwest magazine was actually a very good magazine in its own right.

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