SPOTLIGHT 

Spotlight – In-flight magazines

In-flight magazines may have a captive audience, but they still have to work hard for readers. Alan Geere looks in the seat-back pocket in front of him to see who is ready for take-off.

By Alan Geere

EASYJET TRAVELLER

What’s it about: ‘A magazine for the get-up-and-go generation’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: October 2016 issue: 170 pages of 275mm x 210mm. Quality matt paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Claims a readership per year of 67,107,913 (yes, SIXTY SEVEN MILLION, that’s a Spotlight record). Published by Ink in London.

Cover: Arty illustration of letters (A,B,C etc not Dear Sir) to go with ‘An A to Z of unplanned travel’ plus explainer come-on. Well-designed masthead and page furniture.

Content: Stylish contents with page numbers on a map. First section, called ‘The Manual’, has some quirky reads like ‘How to unleash your inner beast’ followed by that A to Z, which is far more inventive than its unimaginative title suggests. Destination pieces, pre-Brexit pages in foreign languages.

Digital: Website (traveller.easyjet.com) has six destination features, one scruffy ad and links back to easyJet to book flights etc. No social media attached directly to the magazine. Easy to find and read digital edition of the magazine.

What they say: “Shit! Hen's egg in wild mushroom tea is even better than it sounds. And I thought it would be pretty damn good,” – editor Simon Kurs on Twitter, living the high life at Le Manoir.

Verdict: Refreshing to see what they call ‘longer reads to expand your horizons’ along with the quicker bits and pieces. A lot of easyJet budget travellers will be surprised to see such a quality product on board. Just hope they appreciate it.

FLIGHT TIME (FLYBE)

What’s it about: ‘Your free magazine’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: September 2016 issue: 132 pages of 250mm x 190mm. Matt paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Published by Stream Publishing from ‘The Cowshed’ in Dormansland, Surrey.

Cover: Minimalist. An arty illustration of a pen producing a vapour trail across what might be a deep blue sky. Masthead and furniture, three coverlines.

Content: Comprehensive contents on pages 5 & 6. Front section called ‘Concierge’ has Q&As, neat features like ‘10 of the best literary locations’, destination pieces and even a promotion ‘Tired of thinning hair?’. A business section that doesn’t feel too businessy with books and gadgets while ‘A to Flybe’ gives as good a destination guide as an expensive, upmarket travelogue. Tucked away at the back is ‘Café flybe’ all polished off with ‘Meet the Team’, in this issue about the Flybe social media team, bless ’em.

Digital: Online at flybe.com and in digital form to download to both mobile and tablet formats for Apple and Android.

What they say: “Here's an idea: Britain's Got Talent, but for politicians! Light entertainment, for the common good. Cheer us all up,” – editor Emily Gravenor on Twitter.

Verdict: Neat, chunky size plus complementary yet unobtrusive advertising coupled with high quality editorial make Flight Time really take off. Although they say the magazine “needs to both entertain and drive ancillary revenues through onboard catering and subsequent travel”, it comes across as much more approachable than that. A real friend in the seat pocket.

HIGH LIFE (BRITISH AIRWAYS)

What’s it about: ‘Change your view’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: October 2016 issue: 158 pages of 289mm x 211mm. Matt paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Claims a circulation of 200,643 per issue. Published by Cedar in London.

Cover: Big picture of a wind turbine promoting the cover story about the Caribbean island of Nevis, four other coverlines and masthead. List of destinations covered on the spine. Not half as compelling as other recent issues.

Content: Plush advertising (Fabergé, MaxMara, Church’s shoes etc) all the way up to the contents on page 15, which is neatly contained on one page. Divided into Detours, Curiosities, Exploration and Directory, this is a dip-in of delights. ‘What I pack’… ‘World’s coolest music scene’… ‘Objects of desire’ – enough to keep you occupied even on a long-haul flight. The routes, destination info and entertainment guides prop up the back.

Digital: Has its own website - highlife.ba.com – with featured pieces and an archive of material. No social media for High Life but plenty, as you would imagine, for BA (953k Twitter followers).

What they say: “We need to talk about using a few less 'we need to talk about…' headlines. It's in danger of becoming the new 'keep calm & carry on…'” – deputy editor Sophy Grimshaw on Twitter.

Verdict: For those of us of a certain publishing age, High Life will always mean William Davis, editor of Punch who founded the magazine in 1963 and was editor for 34 years. His mission to “entertain you, give you some useful ideas, and provide information” sounds quaintly prosaic for such a larger than life character, but the 2016 High Life will not let him down. Some magazines on the newsstand for the price of a paperback book do not come close to its verve and sheer professionalism.

MAGAZINE (AIR FRANCE)

What’s it about: ‘The discovery of hedonistic international artistic and cultural news’ – info on the website of Lagardère, who handle sales for Air France.

Vital statistics: September 2016 issue: 288 pages of 261mm x 197mm. Quality matt paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. Claims a circulation is 403,840 per issue. Produced by Gallimard and published by Air France in Paris.

Cover: Arty full bleed picture to illustrate the cover story about Oran, a little known travel destination in Algeria we learn inside, a very large issue number and four modest one-word cross-refs. Either outré or a bit dull.

Content: Beautiful ads full of beautiful people populate mostly right-hand pages. Pieces about fashion, art, culture, music and more fashion reinforce the notion that you need to live ‘la vie Francais’ even if you are just sitting on a plane. Duty free selection at the back – Princess Grace ballpoint for €490, anyone? – and just one page of entertainment.

Digital: Website (magazines.airfrance.com) is an archive of digital magazines and link to iPad edition.

What they say: “I love first films, like a first kiss, and all the first times,” French journalist, TV host and movie executive Isabelle Giordano writing about ‘Budding talent’ in this issue.

Verdict: Everything is diligently translated from French to English, making it feel like a very chic language course. Beautifully constructed and great to look at, even if you don’t read a word. Just what you need to transport you to another land from Manchester, Newcastle or Aberdeen.

RUNWAY RETAIL (RYANAIR)

What’s it about: ‘Low fares. Made simple.’ – coverline under Ryanair logo. Plus ‘Please do not remove from the aircraft.’

Vital statistics: July 2016 issue (the latest): 54 pages of 297mm x 212mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Published by Ryanair in Dublin.

Cover: Full bleed pic of a bottle is a perfume ad (looks nice, though) plus masthead, Ryanair logo and a stamp exhorting passengers to be ‘environmentally friendly’ and return the mag to cabin crew.

Content: A page of ‘Welcome on board’ written by the head of retail, two pages of in-house guff about ‘customer experience initiatives’ and then straight into the meat and drink of shopping and, er, drinking. Contents panel helpfully guides you all the way from meal deals (p8-9) to salty and sweet snacks (p46-47) via watches, jewellery and those adapters and earphones that you always need. Some airport transfer info (cost included) and a map showing you where you’re going. All neatly displayed with clear pricing.

Digital: A link from Ryanair.com takes you to a pdf version of the July issue. Previous mag Let’s Go lives on via Facebook (3,332 likes). Twitter hashtag #RyainairInflight is a neat idea and has lots of pictures of people ‘enjoying themselves’ in the hope of winning a €100 flight voucher.

What they say: “It’s not an in-flight magazine as such, but a catalogue for onboard sales, so I don’t think it qualifies for your feature. We don’t have any to hand in HQ unfortunately,” – Robin Kiely, head of communications at Ryanair explaining why InPublishing can’t be sent a copy of Runway Retail.

Verdict: Ryanair canned its magazine ‘Let’s Go’ (also produced by Ink) earlier this year when chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs announced plans to replace the inflight magazine with “targeted, digital content”. That may be so, but that digital content is not immediately available as you get comfy in the seat. Runway Retail is distributed (and collected) by cabin crew so does the job as on online menu. But get over it, ‘Let’s Go’ has gone…

VERA (VIRGIN ATLANTIC)

What’s it about: ‘Vera entertainment guide’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: October 2016 issue: 44 pages of 270mm x 207mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. Claims a print run of 85,000 and readership of 483,000. Published by Virgin Atlantic in Crawley.

Cover: Delicious in mono with Virgin red and white. Full bleed moody picture of actor Riz Ahmed, stylish masthead, page furniture, a WiFi symbol and Virgin Atlantic logo.

Content: As an entertainment guide, Vera does not disappoint. Lovingly crafted write-ups of movies, kids tv, comedy, drama etc plus music. A two-page guide to using the onboard WiFi and a page of charidee stuff. Some stylish high end ads (Grey Goose, Amarula) contribute to the classy feel.

Digital: Nothing specifically for Vera, but a comprehensive section on the main Virgin site devoted to in-flight entertainment.

What they say: “We will not be able to ascertain the volume of your own unique headset, so please be aware that it may be louder than expected,” upfront warning about using your own headphones.

Verdict: Apart from the rather unnecessary two pages of twaddle under the headline ‘The rise of binge TV’, this a tight, bright offering that delivers just enough to guide your entertainment choices. Not trying to sell you anything, although buried in the small print of the WiFi spread is “log on to our free portal to buy a WiFi session for just £14.99”. So it’s free after you’ve spent 15 quid…