Hah: United Airlines Now Mailing Inflight Magazine To Elite Flyers

Filed Under: United

The horrible situation that airlines are in is having quite an impact for many suppliers. For example, American Airlines’ nut supplier has a huge surplus, and is selling them directly to consumers.

Inflight magazines are in an equally rough situation. They’re typically run by third parties, and rely on advertisers to pay the bills. With the number of travelers way down, circulation of these magazines is also way down. Well, it looks like United Airlines and INK Publishing have a creative solution for this…

United Hemispheres Magazine now being mailed

United Airlines’ Hemispheres inflight magazine hasn’t been published since April:

  • The number of travelers has plummeted, so readership would be very limited
  • Beyond that, it’s not exactly hygienic to have inflight magazines right now, which are potentially being touched by dozens and dozens of people

Well, Hemispheres magazine is making a comeback in August, but it won’t be available on United Airlines flights.

As reported by Ramsey Qubein, United Airlines will be making its inflight magazine an elite perk, known as “Hemi at Home.” US-based United Global Services, Premier 1K, and Premier Platinum members, will start receiving copies of Hemispheres magazine at their mailing address on file.

The magazine is published by INK Publishing, and that company will be picking up the cost of shipping. There’s no option to otherwise pay for a subscription.

The inflight magazine relies on advertisers to make money, so I suppose the hope is that advertisers will find to be a lucrative audience. I can see both sides to this:

  • On the one hand, elite members are probably the people that advertisers most want to target anyway
  • On the other hand, each magazine sent out to individuals will only have a small percentage of the readership of a magazine that’s in a seatback pocket for the entire month, given that dozens of people will potentially be at every seat

Is the end approaching for inflight magazines?

The current pandemic has caused a lot of airlines to make tough decisions that seemed inevitable. Similarly, one has to wonder if the end might be near for inflight magazines as well.

Back in the day, SkyMall was a thing because people literally had nothing to do on a plane. Sure, you may not have boarded a plane thinking you needed the world’s largest wine glass, a garden gnome, a glow in the dark toilet seat, or a foot tanner, but damnit, by the time you landed you were considering a full redesign of your home, as well as your life’s priorities.

Are days similarly numbered for inflight magazines?

  • We’re increasingly seeing airlines offer streaming entertainment and wifi
  • Even without that, people bring things they can entertain themselves with, like iPads; this wasn’t nearly as common a decade ago
  • With a focus on hygiene, reading materials that are reused are a big no-no
  • Inflight magazines aren’t great for the environment, both in terms of the paper they’re printed on, and in terms of the added fuel burn from the weight of them

While I suppose inflight magazines could instead be available digitally, would anyone actually read them? Similar to SkyMall, I think people read inflight magazines because they have nothing better to do. If people are going to access them from a smartphone or laptop, chances are that there’s something else they’d rather read first.

For what it’s worth, back in March Delta discontinued its inflight magazine, and the entire staff was laid off.

Bottom line

United’s Hemispheres magazine is making a comeback in August. However, it won’t be available on United Airlines flights, but rather will be available digitally, and it will also be mailed to United elite flyers.

I suppose this is a creative solution, though I can’t help but wonder if the days of inflight magazines are numbered…

What do you think — could this pandemic finally lead to inflight magazines being discontinued?

  1. That’s as bad as companies that mail their quarterly or seasonal catalogs. Straight into the trash.. waste of money.

  2. Fortunately my recycle bin is between my mailbox and my back door so I dont need to make an additional trip.

  3. @Jetiquette, amusing ignorance.

    They only mail them *because* it makes them money.

    As for this United magazine, they know much it will cost, and they know how much advertisers are paying in advance.

  4. what a waste of money.

    no one reads it anyways and the only people that do are the losers who get on planes with absolutely nothing with them.

  5. United’s premium class in-flight magazine, Rhapsody, was actually very good, and I would go out of my way to read it. I would have loved to receive it at home. It’s a shame they discontinued it. 70% of Hemispheres is fluff.

  6. I’ll be a dissenting voice, but I think it’s a good idea both the digitally available and the mailing to its elite members. They could change the content to fit the COVID situation with articles that are actually very useful. I’m not a UA loyalist but if I were, I’d give it a read.

    I receive regular COVID-related email from my usual hotel in Paris that I use for business trips with reports of what is going on over there. The content includes the hotel business, the restaurants, tourism activities and, of course, COVID updates for Paris. I’m very happy to get these reports every few weeks as I’m going over in September on my first business trip since February.

  7. I actually enjoy inflight magazines and collect them. Got around 600 so far. It will be sad day if they are discontinued. I always fall in love with the route map 🙂

  8. Actually kind of (really, just kind of) looking forward to receiving the first issue. I’ve always liked the random collection of articles in in-flight magazines in general. And during these days of being grounded, it is kind of a small reminder of times in the air (though not on a UA flight necessarily)

  9. I do like inflight magazines. IFE is not enough. For one thing, I like the maps. Unlike IFE, I can draw on the magazines.

    I have, a few times, redrawn country boundaries, drew in imaginary flights, and other stuff on maps. For the drawings of the airlines’ aircraft, I have added stuff like a huge radome or AWACS type radar antenna or in flight refueling. For example, making a Delta 757 into a Delta KC-757 or a Delta 737-900ER into a Wedgetail with a huge flat antenna.

  10. I like the crossword puzzles, Suduko, and brain teasers in the mags. Once in a great while, a terminal map comes in handy before landing if making a connection in an airport that I don’t frequently connect thru. Most of the ads, like online ads, I have blinders to and don’t pay them any attention.

  11. @Jackson: Cool – first thing I do is go to the route map also! And then the airport maps. Especially when I fly a new or different airline. (I know, I am a nerd)

    But seriously will miss UA’s “Three Days in…………..” Actually looked forward to reading that on the first flight of every month.

  12. I agree with everything you said about the wastefulness and lack of cleanliness of seat-back magazines. However, Skymall was such a treat for me. I will miss that.

  13. Actually Qantas has been doing that virtually all year. Unlike the US flight Magazines, it is not a vehicle for a product catalog, it actually has some very interesting and good travel articles and recommendations. Its always had its own instagram @qftravelinsider & of course has now pivoted towards domestic markets rather than international but with the long closure of our borders and the death of both domestic and international tourism, not sure which advertisers will be able to stick with them, if any. In reality, another QF cost cutting measure under the guise of Covid and it will probably never come back in its original form which is a good thing for the environment but I do love the touchy feely of a travel glossy!!

  14. To anyone who has received a copy via USPS, are the crosswords pre-filled, like every magazine on the plane?

  15. I have received a couple of issues of En Route, Air Canada’s in flight magazine, during the lock down. I’ve appreciated the articles and the sense that they are trying to maintain a connection. Sure, part of this is to provide numbers to the Audit Bureau of Circulation to justify their advertising rates, but I’ve still appreciated the gesture. I don’t necessarily love every article, but who does? If you find one article in an in flight magazine that’s interesting, informative or amusing, it’s worthwhile.

  16. Not sure the publisher and advertisers would like this, but they could add a field somewhere on the united.com profile to opt out of the magazine mailing.

  17. @Sam – not when that would dramatically increase the print run with legacy 1MMers who aren’t actively flying as much

  18. For those of us of an indecisive nature, I do hope that the drinks selection gets published on a card placed in the seat back!

    Plus I also liked looking at the route map and the page of aircraft information.

  19. I have always read the route map and the airline fleet pages of the magazines even when I bring things to do. Otherwise they’re all pretty much a dud.

  20. Air Canada has been sending out enRoute, its inflight magazine, for a few months now. I’m SuperElite (their top tier status) so I don’t know how widespread the distribution has been.

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