After 47 years of providing print entertainment in the sky, British Airways’ onboard magazines are moving online. Olivia Palamountain reports
The new format will offer access to content for customers before, during and after a flight. This includes a new section for Business Life to replace the current on-board paper versions of both publications.
The magazine will be emailed to five million Executive Club customers every month regardless of if they fly, while other customers will be able to download the magazine on board, using the airline’s in-flight wifi for free.
Hamish McVey, British Airways’ head of brand and marketing, says: “Our High Life magazine has been a source for travel inspiration for our customers for nearly half a century. When we trialled moving High Life online at the beginning of this year, it was a great success.“We know our customers value technology and a contactless journey, especially in the current climate, so we are delighted to now be able to provide over five million customers a month with digital High Life.
“We hope this new digital magazine will help customers plan their holidays with our expert holiday guides, as well as provide the latest information as we make important changes to our customer experience.”
Each issue will include monthly audio stories, photo experiences and live panels as well as first person stories from travel experts and curated guides for exploring cities across the world.
As well as trusted travel content, High Life digital will keep customers updated with any changes to the airline’s customer experience and route network. The new digital format also means that the airline can update content in real-time with any developments in this Covid-19 era.
Former High Life editor Mark Jones, writing in The Daily Mail, says: “Many other airline magazines have been suspended, as much for economic as hygiene reasons (no passengers, no readers). So, if it’s the end of an era, the era has been a long one.”
He also quotes a former airline marketing boss as saying: “‘Airlines are now using Covid-19 to give customers less. To remove something so basic as the magazine is the airline admitting that it’s squeezing more out of passengers for less.’”
According to the Financial Times, Ink, the world’s biggest in-flight magazine publisher had 18 airline partners in early March but only American Airlines’ American Way remained onboard through lockdown. Etihad and Brussels Airlines have stopped producing magazines altogether.
But with no evidence of anyone catching Covid-19 through a printed product, and the World Health Organization stating that newspapers are safe to handle, is the death of the in-flight magazine a convenient kill or a necessary precaution?
Globetrender editor and founder Jenny Southan says: “I have always loved finding articles I have written in print issues of airline magazines when in the air, even when dog-eared and coffee stained. Is going digital the only sensible thing to do in the viral age, when airlines are fighting for survival?
“Or is banishing print paranoid and short-sighted? After all, you have a captive audience with a printed magazine, that doesn’t require every passenger to have a device. And that makes the medium far more democratic.
“That time during take-off and landing when devices aren’t typically allowed to be used, is the perfect opportunity for leafing through a magazine, tapping into engagement levels rarely found in the modern world when we are all so distracted.
“In an airline seat we are strapped in, still, a little bit bored and a little bit anxious. With nothing else to occupy us, we will stare at print adverts and glossy photos, and even read long-form articles. Going digital means in-flight magazines will have to fight for our attention alongside every other app on our phones and iPads.”
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