After 55 years of publication, American Way magazine is no more. The on-board magazine for American Airlines takes its last flight in June 2021.
The airline will no longer carry the printed magazine on board, shifting focus to its digital offerings. Passengers will be able to consume the digital content on their personal electronic devices across most of the fleet.
Beyond the entertainment of reading articles learning about potential destinations, the magazines also provided practical information for travelers. Details like airport terminal maps, snack and beverage menus, or, somewhat ironically, how to connect to the in-flight wifi network were typically published in the back pages. Whether the airlines try to adapt that content to digital or simply write it off remains to be seen.
No ads, no money, no mags
Other airlines also shed their in-flight magazine production during the pandemic, similarly motivated by a lack of advertisers and limited passengers to read them. But some of those started to return to the skies. Notably, United Airlines brought back Hemispheres magazine this month, having kept up digital publication during the pandemic.
In-flight magazines live (and die) on the back of advertising dollars. Even with passenger numbers rebounding quickly in the domestic US market, putting potential eyeballs in the seats to consume the printed content, it appears the production costs are simply too high, and the advertising revenue too low.
The magazines are generally produced by a third party, under contract to the airline. In American’s case the publisher is industry stalwart Ink Global.
In many cases these contracts are considered “at risk,” with the publisher taking on the financial liability of production and hoping to turn a profit. At least one major travel-related agency recently shifted its policies to not renew any at risk contracts, however, pushing the magazines ever closer to extinction.
And it isn’t like the digital revenue is sufficient. Despite promises of systems that can deliver highly targeted ads, far more valuable than a generic magazine page ever could, the practical results thus far proved disappointing.
Delta’s Sky Magazine and Southwest’s The Magazine also halted publication, though that decision was made more than a year ago, early in the pandemic. While neither officially called the publications dead, they have not yet returned. And the market for magazine-based lunch dates for busy business travelers seems smaller than ever.
Among other aspects of the change, American notes this eliminates some paper waste and reduces weight on aircraft. It sees the shift as another, albeit small, step towards a more eco-friendly travel offering.
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