US airlines have had their share of troubles in recent years, including several bankruptcies.
But that hasn't yet impacted the quality or the clout of in-flight magazines, which remain a great way to reach upper-income business and leisure travelers.
"Our core reader is the business traveler, but we try to maintain a pretty good balance between business editorial, travel editorial, and leisure editorial," explains Michael Buller, editor of Continental Airlines' Continental magazine, which is produced by Boston-based custom publisher The Pohly Co. "Our view of our audience is that they're thinking business on the way out... and leisure on the way home."
Although in-flight magazines tend to be filled with plenty of gadget and product reviews, as well as destination stories, the audience makeup is different from traditional travel or consumer outlets. "We're about 60-40 male with a fairly high household income and an average age of about 48," says Buller. "It's a fairly self-selecting audience."
Matthew Pugh, senior account executive with Stanton Communications, whose clients include the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, says the huge percentage of business people who read in-flight magazines make the publications great outlets for more than just soft features and reviews. "You can really use them to highlight the business opportunities in an area or region, so we look to them to reach that C-level executive who's considering locating a business in Baltimore," he says.
In-flight magazines rely heavily on freelancers for content, but Michelle Abril, account executive with New York-based Quinn & Co., notes: "They tend to be more responsive and a slightly easier pitch than, say, high-end travel magazines, especially if you can come up with a trend that involves a couple of hotels or destinations. The one thing to remember is you want to only focus on destinations that the airline serves."
As for pitching in-flight magazines, Christine Montoya Fiedler, account supervisor with LA-based Christine Anderson & Associates, says: "People tend to flip through in-flight magazines, so you need to make sure your visuals are good. Even many longer features tend to be dominated by pictures."
It's also important to keep in mind that in-flight magazines trigger a surprising amount of impulse purchases, says David Johnson, CEO and cofounder of Atlanta-based Strategic Vision. "You always want to include the Web site in your pitch because even if a product is carried in the airport stores, a lot of people will still order online, especially luxury goods."
PITCHING... In-flight magazines
In-flight magazines tend to be browsed through, which puts a huge premium on making sure you include great eye-catching art with any pitch
Make sure the airline actually flies to a destination before pitching a travel-themed story to an in-flight magazine
In-flight magazines tend to rely heavily on freelancers so reaching out directly to those reporters can be almost as effective as pitching an editor or staff writer