A few days ago, I posted a tweet about inflight magazines:
Whilst this wasn’t in any way scientific, the responses I received were more or less split. Ten people responded that they did read it. Eleven said they either didn’t read it, or just flicked through it.
With air travel set to become very different over the coming months, do inflight magazines have a future?
Most airlines publish a new edition every month. Whilst ordering in bulk will likely mean a reduced cost compared to if you or I were to get one printed, the cost is still likely to be high. However, with the number of adverts published this is likely to be offset for the most part.
However, think about how many times these magazines are handled. A typical short haul aircraft will make up to five trips per day. Assuming the plane is full on every trip, thats 10 people that could potentially be thumbing through the inflight magazine every day. Or up to 310 per month.
With the ongoing Covid-19 situation, we all know that touching “foreign” items is a big no-no.
Therefore at least for the moment, the inflight magazine could be disappearing. One person replied to my Tweet that they do normailly read it on board, however they wont be going anywhere near it in future. I suspect that many people will have the same opinion. Even during regular times, I’ve seen one in the seat pocket that I wouldn’t go near!
So What Does The Future Hold?
Going forward, I can see inflight magazines being removed completely. In the near future, it will be made clearer that the publications will be available to read on your own devices. This has the benefit of the airline being able to keep the advertising revenue, whilst cutting down the publication costs.
British Airways have already removed all of their inflight literature with exception of the mandatory safety card. They have even gone to the more extreme legnth of removing ice and lemon for the limited range of drinks they are still serving. But thats a topic for another time…
When you get your average traveller, how many of them will go out of their way to hunt down the inflight magazine online before their flight? I suspect many of them only take a quick glance at it towards the end of their flight as it’s there in front of them.
As such, I can’t see inflight magazines returning for a good couple of years. At which point, the current situation will be mostly a distant memory in the general publics eye, and it will be a case of “why did those disappear again”.
However, if the airlines still make advertising revenue from them without having to actually print and distribute the magazines, then it could well be that they exist in eMagazine form only. With more and mor aircraft offering WiFi these days, it will become even easier to get hold of it even when you’re on board.
How About An Online Version?
Many airlines already provide an app to read their magazines on your own device. And have done for many years. I remember bmi having an iPad app for their inflight magazine. That airline disappeared in 2012.
The issue being though, is that does anyone know that they’re there? And if they did, does anyone really care? As I said, my research above was highly unscientific. As my Twitter account is mostly followed by those who have an interest in flying and travel, I suspect that the results might be slightly biased.
When flying in premium cabins, on long haul at least, there are seperate magazines geared towards the type of people flying at the front of the plane. Previously, Virgin Atlantic provided Carlos magazine exclusively for those travelling in their Upper Class cabin. However, there was a caveat with that. In both their Premium Economy and Economy cabins during this time, they offered no inflight magazine whatsoever. All that was provided was the IFE listings. This arrangement lasted for a few years until the airline went back to a more traditional arrangement.
More recently, British Airways still offered a seperate magazine for their First Class passengers. From looking at it briefly, it didn’t prove all that much of interest. Those who are into £200,000 watches or £5000 pens might think differently however….
I suspect that these editions may not return so quickly – if at all. The editions that I’ve seen on board, have made it pretty clear that you can take them away with you. Yet its been pretty obvious that the edition in my seat pocket wasn’t fresh out of the packet. I suppose it’s not out of the question that they have been read from cover to cover. But from observing others over many years of flying, Most seem buried in their phones, the IFE or anything but the inflight magazine.