TRAVEL MEDIA: PROFESSIONAL TRAVELLERS ON INFLIGHT MEDIA - Business travellers are a captive yet discerning audience. Here three give their verdicts on airline offerings



The only thing I am sure of when it comes to inflight titles is that

they are forgettable. I cannot think of one article that has stayed with

me after I’ve shoved the magazine back into the pouch of the seat in


I travel a lot so I’ve learnt to be prepared. I buy novels and, of

course, work on the plane (in theory).

This is where inflight mags come in. The struggle between raiding the

new Barbara Trapido or looking through boring work papers begins. To

delay that decision, I have to make another: newspaper or inflight mag?

The newspaper’s difficult. There’s the inky fingers problem, the size

problem and the Daily Mail problem. For the first two, the Mail’s a

pretty good solution and there are always plenty left. But I hate it and

the people who read it. The letters page reveals that Mail readers have,

in my opinion, mean mouths and wave their hands around when other people

smoke. So inflight magazines certainly win over the Mail.

High Life is very BA: cool, a bit bossy, a bit trendy. Hot Air is

unmistakably Virgin: bright colours, bright people and lots of pics -

but it all seems to fizzle out at the end.

The overall impression of Lufthansa’s offering is boring and efficient;

Air France is stylishly arrogant but good on business; SAS and Finnair

are stiflingly dull and full of things on electronics and the Net. The

US ones aren’t too bad, but are flowery and over written. Not, however,

when compared with their menus, where even the bread selection demands

15 adjectives.

The luxury yacht ads indulge my fantasies but I never remember the

brand. Of course, there’s always the map. If all media fail, I study the

maps and note all the places I’ve been to - which makes me think what a

strange thing business travelling is because you never get to know



There should be no doubt that riding the jet streams for a day’s

business in Europe is a stressful operation. Only recently, an account

man here at Ammirati Puris Lintas managed to get all the way from the

plane, through customs and passport control to the exit of the airport

before he realised he was wearing somebody else’s jacket. How a normally

intelligent guy can get into the state of mind where he happily makes

his way to a meeting in another man’s clothing is a complete


The moral of the tale for media planners is that we must realise that

the last thing a travelling business audience is thinking is, ’Hey, I’m

really looking forward to seeing some ads.’

We need to understand that if we are to make the most of this important

opportunity, examining research that just tells us the numbers of

readers or viewers is not sufficient. It may sound strange, but media

owners in this sector have gone to extremes in support of this view. In

one instance, a busy executive had a pulse-rate meter strapped to him

for his entire journey. The findings showed, unsurprisingly, that the

journey to the airport was a bad time - the increase in pulse rate was

severe. The logic follows that during periods of intense stress,

receptiveness to advertising is likely to be low.

In contrast, once a traveller is on the plane, seated and comfortable,

we have a much more captive audience. In fact, there are very few media

moments when we have consumers in such a receptive mode. Arrival at the

destination and the onward journey, again, causes the pulse rate to

increase. In true media-planning fashion, the results can be charted

(see above).

While I would never suggest that we use a sample of one, such as this,

to plan an approach to media, I would argue that media planning is not

simply a numbers game or, indeed, a science. It is a craft skill where

the understanding of the consumer’s state of mind and his or her

behaviour are critical to the effective placement of advertising.

This is, perhaps, more important in the context of the moving target

that is the international business traveller than in any other



You’re in the departure lounge, shuffling towards the gate, bleakly

contemplating the hours ahead because you’ve forgotten to bring a book,

newspaper or magazine. It’s the Friday evening airlift back to Heathrow

and you know there will be a stampede for the few magazines and

English-language papers on board.

If you’re quick, you might find an Economist, Time or Newsweek; not so

quick, the Spectator, GQ, Vogue, Marie Claire; real slow, the European,

or the Asian Wall Street Journal.

In desperation, you sit down and reach, embarrassed, for the inflight

magazine. But I exaggerate to make a point. In fairness, depending on

the airline, these publications can contain quite interesting material

of a standard certainly no worse - often better - than your average

weekly supplement. The problem is that the readable ones - like Virgin’s

Hot Air or BA’s High Life - are still greatly out-numbered by the likes

of the Swissair Gazette (’On the road from Marrakech to Fez’) or KLM’s

Holland Herald (’Odyssey in Oman’). Many titles suffer from being

showcases for perfumes, fashion accessories, hotels and business

appliances, which gets in the way of good presentation.

The picture painted here represents the short-haul rather than long-haul

flying experience, the latter being relatively civilised with more

publications and wider choice. And, of course, there are the inflight

movies. This suggests (media planners, please note) that inflight

magazines are more likely to be read on European than international


If you add to all this the fact that frequent flyers can be exposed to

the same issue of an inflight title several times in a month, it seems

likely that these publications are doomed to remain a distress (non)