American Has Launched Their New Inflight Magazine

American Airlines has re-launched their inflight magazine, American Way.

I spoke with American’s Vice President of Marketing, Fern Fernandez (regular readers may know him from US Airways, since the Dividend Miles program reported up to him). Fern told me that they produce 700,000 copies of the magazine each month, and they estimate that it gets 500,000 eyeballs each day and claim annual reach of 193 million people.

Inflight Magazines Are Big Business

At a time when print advertising is facing major challenges, inflight magazines still present a real opportunity. Fifteen years ago a friend was trying to launch a project to put advertising on aircraft overhead bins.

That didn’t really take off, but the demographic is irresistible — high average income, confined.. and bored.

American West was the first airline to do tray table advertising, a practice that moved over to US Airways on some aircraft. AirTran actually launched ads on the backs of the tray tables (at US Airways you actually had to put the tray table down in order to see the ad). United experimented with it as well.

So how do you put out an attractive, engaging product that passengers will value, that will in turn be attractive to advertisers?

American’s New Strategy for American Way

American used to produce their inflight magazine in-house. The Onion actually suggested that the airline was merely a distribution mechanism for their core magazine business.

Back in August I reported that American would be outsourcing publication of the magazine to a third party. They’ve partnered with London-based Ink which has also produced magazines for United, TAM, Brussels Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Iberia, and Jazeera Airways among others.

Working in the travel space there’s certainly economies of scale and scope, and outsourcing it makes sense. Part of this change is putting the publication online, making it downloadable, and offering an app including embedded video. Fern told me that the magazine will be whitelisted on Gogo inflight internet.

American Way is now monthly, and the January issue also marks the same magazine being used across the American and US Airways operations. With monthly publishing frequency, I may have a shot at having one of my letters to the editor published — apparently they receive 37,000 reader letters per year, which is quite a lot to select from for their ‘Air Mail’ section. (They run a drawing to give away miles to people who publish letters.)

The Magazine Will Change…

There are changes. There’s no more opening letter from the CEO. That’s probably for the best, Doug Parker shouldn’t spend his time editing or signing off on magazine content.

It’s replaced by a new feature letter offering a different employee’s perspective each month. And there’s an opening letter from the Publisher, which is Ink and not American. We’re likely to see a better-produced magazine overall, but it will be a different magazine — easier to skim quickly and in short doses.

On the other hand, the popular puzzles in the magazine remain, though Fern says they’re being made harder.

How Good is the Content in the First Issue?

The inaugural issue in this new format features a short piece by the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly.

The conceit of the piece is places you can take in within an easy drive of the airport (“there’s plenty of smoked meat within an easy drive of the Austin airport, from which American offers a slew of regional flights.”). Regular readers know I’m a big fan of their number one pick, Black’s Barbecue. (Here’s how to skip the lines at Black’s.)

I’d leave off Kreuz Market entirely, except you might as well drop in since it’s just down the street from Black’s. City Market in Luling is good but not great, in my opinion.

But it seems odd to include the legendary Snow’s on this list because you’re going to have to land in Austin pretty early and on a Saturday if you’re going to make it there in time (the article advises, “Get there before 9 a.m. if you want your pick of the menu”, but there’s not a single American flight that arrives in Austin before 9).

Regardless, it’s an article I’d take with me off the flight. I’ve rarely said that about pieces in inflight magazines, except perhaps United’s ‘Three Perfect Days’ series.

Will You Take the Magazine Off Your Next Flight?

The magazine is a ‘take away’ — you can take it with you. I always thought that had to be tough on the airline, to know when a passenger had taken it in order to put a new one in the seat pocket. It turns out that since they’re required to have a safety card there, and they check it each day, adding the inflight magazine to the checklist isn’t that big an addition.

These paper magazines do add weight though, but the price of fuel is dropping so it’s the perfect time to add more content!

Do you read the inflight magazine? What do you think of American Way?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. With the magazine going monthly (from semi-monthly, e.g. twice monthly), the opportunity for a letter getting published has diminished. For mega-frequent fliers, it’s reduced the frequency of new content.

    The “airline management page” has always been interesting to me (to see what propaganda the airline wants me to read). Alaska’s magazine has been featuring commentary from other than the CEO, which has been quite interesting.

  2. The publishing freqency has been HALVED not doubled — it was previously twice a month. I’m sorry to see all these changes — I thought American Way was always a first class rag with broad, engaging, well written pieces that weren’t just about selling you your next ticket (at least overtly).

  3. Agree with GloberParker — they’re taking what was a good airline mag and making it crap. Too bad.

  4. My husband had a physics (for liberal arts majors)
    professor who would give you an automatic A in the class if you got an article published in an airline magazine. I assume the article had to be about physics but the class was called ‘Great Ideas in Science” so integrity to physics wasn’t a high priority….;)
    I’ve always been mildly intrigued by the airline magazine but it’s usually not worth the time it takes to read it. Unless, of course, you are realllly bored. I’m more of a skymall girl myself.

  5. I like the Spanish language version and am trying to figure out how to subscribe since I don’t fly American every month.

  6. I also feel sorry for the staff that made the old edition of the magazine. I felt that they did a good job with their task of making a general interest magazine. Is American making any changes to the Spanish language magazine?

  7. Yet another Something Special has been Parkerized by HPdbaAA.

    Keep trying to find those biz class award seats to Europe kids.

  8. @Daniel the new Nexos (bi-monthly Spanish/Portugese) launches in February. The new Celebrated Living (quarterly, premium cabin magazine) launches in March

    @Greg the business class transatlantic award availability issue for American metal predates the merger

  9. Gary, you didn’t cover the most critical question. How are the Sudoku puzzles in the new mag???

    (I was always amused that Southwest’s inflight mag was called “Spirit”. You couldn’t name two carriers with greater philosophical differences!! Southwest has finally chosen a different name.)

  10. Why do the airline magazines always cater to the city folks, I raise horses and i love agriculture and there is hardly anything on those subjects. I am also a writer and cowboy poet . don’t you think this would be a good idea to have some poetry, humor and Wild West pieces in your magazine.??

  11. In American Way magazine, what month/year was the article “Two Percent of History” printed.
    Also, continued success. I very seldom fly, but will be seeking your magazine when I do.

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