Recession gives inflight magazines new wings

Like their equivalents in the West, inflight magazine publishers in the UAE are using the recession as an opportunity to reach the high-end flyer.

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Like their equivalents in the West, inflight magazine publishers in the UAE are using the recession as an opportunity to relaunch titles and bring out new products aimed at the top-end business traveller. Emirates Airline plans to relaunch its flagship title, Open Skies, next month after reporting a 41.5 per cent jump in inflight magazine revenues for the 2008-2009 financial year. Much of the revenue boost comes from the airline's recent launch of its luxury product catalogue, Emirates High Street, and its children's magazine, e-kids, as well as the doubling of the frequency of Portfolio, its magazine for first and business-class passengers, from a bimonthly to a monthly publication from February. Boutros Boutros, Emirates Airline's divisional senior vice president of corporate communications, said: "As quoted from the annual report, the 41.5 per cent growth in revenue reflects the 'buoyant local market'. During that time rates grew in relationship to the print run, while the revenue earned reflected the number of advertising pages sold and the resulting issue size." Just as Portfolio was doubling its frequency, Etihad Airways was celebrating the arrival of its own offering for wealthy passengers. Thomas Clarke, a media relations officer at Etihad Airways, said: "We launched our first issue of Aspire in January for first and business-class passengers. We're on to issue three now, and Etihad Inflight, which used to be available across all cabins, is predominantly in economy class." Etihad Inflight had a print run of 22,000 copies, Mr Clarke said, while Aspire had a run of 9,000. ITP, the publisher of the magazines, declined to comment. Motivate Publishing, the publisher of Emirates Airline's magazines, has been publishing 300,000 copies of the quarterly Emirates High Street, and expects next month's print run of Open Skies to reach 74,000, the largest to date. Advertising rate cards had stayed the same since last year, Mr Boutros said, a choice that reflected the economic realities of the recession. Ian Fairservice, the managing partner and group editor of Motivate, said ad revenues faltered slightly earlier in the year, but had begun to turn around. "We witnessed a significant drop-off in [the first quarter] of this year, largely caused by advertisers reducing their activity in the face of the uncertain economic climate," he said. "Since then, we're already witnessing a significant uplift in advertising revenues, and we expect this to continue." The decision to relaunch Open Skies with new features, reflects a long-running trend of inflight magazines increasingly resembling their consumer counterparts, a trend that has accelerated with the recession.