Read the Friendly Skies… from Home

We’ve all heard that publishers need to adapt to their readers’ changing behaviors this year. And we’ve seen many good examples of this. Some publishers have been pivoting their content and coverage in real-time. Others are producing SIPs around the pandemic. Still, others are expanding their digital coverage.

United Airlines is taking this idea to heart too; with their best customers not flying, and in-flight magazines not allowed in the seatbacks these days, they are mailing their publication to their elite flyers.

Inflight magazines, as travel writer Ben Schlappig writes in One Mile at a Time, are in a tough spot right now.

They’re typically run by third parties, and rely on advertisers to pay the bills. With the number of travelers way down, circulation of these magazines is also way down,” Schlappig writes.

In United’s case, their United Hemispheres Magazine is run by INK, and the two brands have put their heads together to get the presses running again on this title, which hasn’t been printed since April.

“As reported by Ramsey Qubein, United Airlines will be making its inflight magazine an elite perk, known as ‘Hemi at Home,’” he writes. “US-based United Global Services, Premier 1K, and Premier Platinum members, will start receiving copies of Hemispheres magazine at their mailing address on file.”

While mailing to elite members at home means far fewer eyeballs than would normally be on an issue, these are the eyeballs of their best, most loyal customers … and that’s worth a lot to an advertiser. It’s a great creative solution … yet Schlappig still can’t help but wonder if the days of the inflight magazine are nearing their end.

With people bringing their own entertainment or tuning in to the plane’s wife, is the magazine still important? I say yes; it’s a brand-building tool that plays a unique role in air travel, and it will be a nice “this feels more normal” moment for many of us. We’ll see how it all plays out when the skies fill with travelers again. In the meantime, kudos to United and INK for using their title to stay connected.