This month more people are reacquainting themselves with the joys of flying. Both Australia and Thailand relaxed strict border closures this week and, from Monday, the US will lift all of its country-specific pandemic travel restrictions. Airlines are bouncing back too: Lufthansa reported a €17m profit for Q3 this year after a €1.3bn loss in the same period last year. So with more people back in the air and carriers’ coffers being replenished, perhaps it’s worth giving passengers something to read again.
The in-flight magazine has taken a hit. In June, Finnair’s Blue Wings closed, as did American Airlines’ American Way, a title with 55 years of history. Delta and Southwest have also ended the print versions of their magazines in the past 18 months. The reasons are mostly familiar: contamination concerns, low passenger numbers, a faith that in-flight wi-fi will pick up the slack. Finnair also tied its decision to a bid to remove weight from its planes to minimise emissions. (If that sounds far-fetched, remember that in 1987, American Airlines said that it saved $40,000 by eliminating a single olive from every first-class passenger’s salad.)
In-flight magazines have always punched above their weight. When I worked at British Airways’ High Life, its cover interviewees ranged from musician Dave Grohl to David Attenborough, while its travel reporting and photography often equalled anything on the newsstand. The best in-flight publications espouse to globetrotters a love of travel: the people, places, sights and sounds that are worth exploring for. It beats watching Godzilla vs Kong on a 7in screen. It’s also worth noting that wi-fi, heralded by some to be the death knell for on-board titles, arrived years before the virus with no dip in magazine pick-up rates. So as tickets are bought for long-awaited family reunions, overdue business trips and well-deserved holidays, airlines should make sure that passengers are reunited with the full on-board experience – and some timely inspiration about where to go next.