The Ultimate Guide to In-Flight Magazines

Did you ever want to know more about in-flight magazines? We've created this page filled with useful information and trivia about airlines' onboard publications.

On this page you will discover:

  • What is an In-Flight Magazine?
  • The History of In-Flight Magazines
  • What Content Do In-Flight Magazines Contain?
  • What is Different With In-Flight Magazines?
  • In-Flight Magazines Data & Statistics
  • Who Publishes In-Flight Magazines?

If you are looking for our list of 250+ in-flight magazines and their publishers, then you'll need to go here instead. 

What is an In-Flight Magazine?

In-flight magazines are publications distributed by an airline company to its passengers. They are usually located in the seat pocket in front of each passenger.

In-flight publications provide details about the airline's fleet and routes, as well as articles of interest about the destinations to which the airline flies.

Three examples are United Airlines' Hemispheres, Air Canada's enRoute and Cathay Pacific's Discovery.




The History of In-Flight Magazines

The 1950s to 1960s

 

The first in-flight magazine in the world was launched by Pan American World Airways as early as 1952. The title was Clipper Travel, and later became Clipper, named for the Boeing 314 Clipper aircraft.

After this, many other airlines introduced in-flight publications.

Remember that this was in the days before jumbo jets - the 747 was first flown commercially in 1970 - when flying was a luxury enjoyed by the wealthiest of people.

Passengers would recline and relax with scotch, cigars, and preferably some good reading material. 

It was very different to the flying conditions today, where passengers are packed in with little leg-room or elbow space!

Here is an article on what it was really like to fly in the '50s

Did You Know? The first in-flight magazine was Pan Am's Clipper in 1952 bit.ly/inflightmags [Click to Tweet]



The 1970s to 1990s

If you want to see what flying was like in the 1970s, you should take a look at The Pan Am Experience. It's a meticulously recreated Pan Am 747 first-class cabin located at Air Hollywood, a studio in Los Angeles. 

What did the in-flight magazines look like in the 1970s and 1980s? Here is a web page with many in-flight magazine covers from that period. 

The 1980s have been referred to by some as a golden age for in-flight magazines and freelance writers. Japan Airlines' magazine was reportedly so big - around 300 pages in length - that they removed some seats from certain planes to compensate for the weight. The income from advertising must have been worth it.

Around this period, some airlines in Asia were paying freelance writers as much as $4,000 per article.

2000 to 2016

Over the past decade or two, the selection of in-flight entertainment has expanded with not only music and movies but in-flight games, Internet, and Wi-Fi. 

In 2008, Emirates announced it was ditching its magazine to save the environment and some people thought that it might signal the beginning of the end for in-flight magazines. Would digital media kill the in-flight magazine?

Interestingly, Emirates' returned to publishing a print magazine and their Open Skies magazine is still being published in 2016.

So much has changed over the years, but in-flight magazines are still with us, keeping passengers entertained at 36,000 feet.

Note: New Horizons was a magazine produced by Pan Am in the 1940s but was not an in-flight magazine in the truest sense since it wasn't provided free to passengers during their flight. 

Did You Know? The longest running in-flight magazine is KLM's Holland Herald, since 1966. bit.ly/inflightmags [Click to Tweet]


What Content do In-Flight Magazines Contain?

In-flight magazines contain plenty of travel content, but there is more to them than travel. They have a diverse range of content that includes general interest pieces as well as articles on business, entertainment, health, and lifestyle

With almost every article, there is some connection to one of the destinations to which the airline flies. 

Almost every in-flight magazine also contains advertising. In fact, the cost of producing many in-flight magazines is offset by advertising revenue. Leading brands of perfume, watches, and cars feature prominently in the pages. 

If the editorial team is doing their job well, then:

  • The readers are informed and entertained, and possibly even choosing a destination for their next trip. 
  • The airline is building a "community" feel around travel with its passengers. 
  • The advertisers are getting exposure for their brands, and loving the captive audiences, high-circulation, and longer shelf life, that in-flight magazines provide.



What is Different With In-Flight Magazines?

From an editorial perspective, there are some differences between in-flight publications and other popular magazines.

  • In-flight magazines have a captive audience. The passengers aren't going anywhere. Well, actually they are, but they are more or less a captive audience for the duration of the flight. The airlines and publishers know that most passengers will pick up the in-flight magazine for a quick read at some point during their flight.

  • There is a more diverse audience than with other publications. The target audiences of most popular magazines are usually narrower in terms of demographics. They may be targeted more at women than men. They may be targeted more at people with certain levels of education or particular recreational interests. The audience on an airline is very diverse, and in-flight magazines need to cater to this diversity. 

  • Editorial teams choose the content very carefully. Airlines prefer their passengers to remain happy and calm, so the editors of these magazines look for content that will entertain and relax their readers. They tend to avoid any controversial content. 


In-Flight Magazines Data & Statistics

Let's look at some current statistics for the airline industry and in-flight publications.  

3.6 Billion

The number of global air passengers in 2016 as forecast by International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2016.

2.6 Billion

The number of air passengers in 2016 expected to read an in-flight magazine, based on the next two statistics. 

90%

The percentage of flights that have in-flight magazines (approximate). Ref.

80%

The percentage of passengers who read the in-flight magazine (approximate). It varies, and we took an average from several sources.

260

The number of member airlines of International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 83% of global air traffic

253

The number of in-flight magazines, from 237 airlines, listed in The In-Flight Magazines Report.


 

According to a 2014 survey by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), the average passenger spends 7% of their time on their flight reading the in-flight magazine. This percentage varied by age and rose to 12% for passengers aged 55 and over. 

 


Who Publishes In-Flight Magazines? 

While a good number of in-flight magazines are published by the airlines themselves, many other in-flight magazines are outsourced to specialty publishing houses.

Some of these companies publish multiple in-flight magazines. Examples include: 

  • Ink Global (publishes in-flight magazines for 25 airlines). 
  • Cinderella Media Group
  • Land & Marine Publications
  • Maxposure Media Group
  • SpaFax

The In-Flight Magazines Report lists more than 250 magazines and their publishers.

 

We hope this page on in-flight magazines has been helpful. We plan to add more information here as it comes to hand, so please consider bookmarking this now, and please share it with your friends.

 

The Ultimate Guide to In-flight Magazines bit.ly/inflightmags [Click to Tweet]


We also welcome your comments.  If you have something interesting to add on the topic of in-flight magazines, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

 

The In-Flight Magazine 
Report

Our Inflight Magazines Quick Reference Report Lists 250 In-Flight Magazines From 120 Countries.



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