Inside Story: Rivals at 37,000 feet

Time was when in-flight magazines were looked down on by the rest of the industry. Not any more. As the holiday season takes wing, Ciar Byrne profiles 12 of the biggest
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The Independent Online

Air New Zealand: Air New Zealand

Editor: Jenny Farrell

Publisher: ACP Media

Richie McCaw, the captain of the All Blacks, is the cover star of the latest issue of Air New Zealand, thanks to the airline's sponsorship of the country's rugby team. Margot Butcher, the magazine's award-winning sports writer, who is very highly regarded in New Zealand, helped to secure the exclusive interview with McCaw.

When King Kong was released, the director Peter Jackson decided to grant an exclusive interview to the magazine, because of its quality and worldwide reach - its readership is 266,000.

Air New Zealand magazine features Kiwis at home and abroad, from the sculptor Paul Dibble at work planting a metal forest in London's Hyde Park, to the country's new sailing stars.

easyJet: In-flight

Editorial director: Michael Keating

Publisher: Ink Publishing

With a readership of nearly three million passengers a month, Easyjet's In-flight also also has an online version which attracts around 100,000 readers a month.

The magazine's unconventional features included in August a "Mafia Guide to Sicily". Stories often promote Easyjet destinations, for example how disused spaces have been turned into some of the hippest night spots in Budapest.

Michael Keating, the magazine's editorial director, says: "If we get the odd complaint, the airline doesn't see that as a bad thing, as it means we actually have something to say."

During the last election, In-flight asked the party leaders about their favourite swimming attire - shorts of Speedos? Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy replied: "Speedos."

Icelandair: Iceland Review

Editor: Krista Mahr

Publisher: Heimur

Iceland Review begins with a message from Icelandair's chief executive, Jon Karl Olafsson. But in contrast to the boast about German safety and efficiency by Wolfgang Mayrhuber in Lufthansa's Magazin, Mr Olafsson takes the opportunity in the latest issue of Iceland Review to apologise to passengers about the facilities at Keflavik International Airport, which is being renovated.

Features include an interview with the Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, a trip to a Californian vineyard, a summer Olympic tour round Oslo, and Rory MacLean on the hippie trail to India.

Emirates: Open Skies

Editor-in-chief: Obaid Humaid al-Tayer

Publisher: Motivate Publishing

The focus of Open Skies, Emirates' magazine, is on the Middle East, but it also roams further afield. The magazine's July cover shows skiwear-clad folk on a snow-covered slope flagging up an article on skiing in the Himalayas.

There are also travel features on Middle East destinations Dubai, Jordan and Syria, and on Switzerland, England, the Maldives and Malaysia. Lifestyle stories explore the secrets of longevity and the Japanese tradition of the samurai.

British Airways: Business Life

Editor: Tim Hulse

Publisher: Cedar Communications

Business Life is available on all BA's domestic and European flights. The aim is not to rival The Economist, but to provide entertainment for executives and cover lifestyle issues from a business perspective. The latest edition majors on young celebrities already publishing autobiographies. There are humorous pieces on dealing with underperforming employees, and on how to while away office hours.

Launched 20 years ago, Business Life has a readership of 106,000. Recent exclusives include an interview last year with Prince Andrew about his working week. Hulse has twice been named Editor of the Year in the contract magazine category at the BSME awards. Business Life was also voted Most Effective Travel & Leisure Title by the Association of Publishing Agencies last November.

American Airlines: American Way

Editor: Sherri Gulczynski Burns

Publisher: American Airlines

To ensure that it captures the attention of frequent flyers, American Way is published twice every month. The clout of American Airlines means that it can attract big-name interviews: the Hollywood star Kate Bosworth is the cover star in the latest issue.

This month, travellers are recommended to spend a weekend in Memphis, or go on a beer tour of New York. There is a feature on the gardens of Beverly Hills and the Belgian town of Ostend, where Marvin Gaye nursed himself back to full mental health. Each edition also contains questions devised by Mensa to keep flyers mentally alert.

Virgin Atlantic: Carlos

Editor: Michael Jacovides

Publisher: John Brown Citrus Publishing

In the aftermath of 9/11, Virgin Atlantic cancelled its in-flight magazine, Hot Air, to save money, but the airline later brought out a new title with John Brown Citrus Publishing. Despite being produced on a relatively low budget, Carlos, was backed in thick brown paper, embossed with gold and ruby lettering, with stylish sketches throughout, and only available to Upper Class passengers.

Articles included wry snapshots of cities and resorts, Toby Young on Larry David, defences of Sean Penn and Catherine Zeta-Jones, a description of a 1984 dinner attended by Katharine Hepburn and Michael Jackson, and an investigation into the problems faced by the fashion house Prada.

After three years, however, Virgin and the publishers felt that Carlos had attracted several imitators, and run its course.

Cathay Pacific: Discovery

Editor: Stuart Lawrence

Publisher: Emphasis Media

Discovery, which has a circulation of 185,000, is produced in Hong Kong and has undergone a revamp to give it a greater focus on Asia. The new-look magazine aims to "bring together the best of East and West in culture, food, entertainment, luxury and lifestyle".

New sections include the bilingual "Fusion", which addresses topics of interest to both Western and Asian readers in a light-hearted style. Stories in the latest issue include "New Global Asia", in which the travel writer and author Pico Iyer explains the importance of Asia to the West in the 21st century.

"Ethnic Hong Kong" explores how immigrants from every continent have come together in the city. There are also more straightforward travel features, for example on how the town of Whistler in Canada has become a summer destination as well as a ski resort, and on the fine wines and cuisine of Marlborough, New Zealand.

BMI: Voyager

Editor: Robina Dam

Publisher: Redwood

Voyager was launched in the early 1990s and is available on all Bmi flights. Passengers are encouraged to take it away with them.

The magazine is aimed at a broad readership. There are features on the latest gadgets and interviews with celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay. Next month, the pop star Will Young talks exclusively to Voyager about his plans for the future.

Printed on quality paper, it is designed to have the feel of a glossy lifestyle magazine.

Lufthansa: Magazin

Editor-in-chief: Uly Foerster

Publisher: G&J Corporate Media

Where many in-flight magazines start with a letter from the editor, flagging up the fabulous lifestyle features inside, Magazin opens with a letter from Lufthansa's chief executive, Wolfgang Mayrhuber. The Lufthansa boss reassures passengers about the airline's stringent safety measures. "Our pilots spend three times the legally prescribed number of hours as trainees, and twice the prescribed number doing further training," Herr Mayrhuber explains.

The magazine is bilingual in German and English throughout, and resolutely highbrow. The photography, printed on matt pages, is outstanding. In the latest issue, there are features on Frida Kahlo, the Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang, Airbus, and a new generation of German-language authors. There is also a sumptuous feature about the North Sea resort of Sylt, and an eight-page gallery of colour photographs, this month inspired by old Icelandic sagas.

British Airways: High Life

Editor: Kerry Smith

Publisher: Cedar Communications

Kerry Smith, the new editor of High Life, previously worked on Glamour, Marie Claire, the Evening Standard and was most recently the features editor of The Independent. She said she wants the 33-year-old magazine, which has a circulation of 350,000, to feature the very best writers and photographers. Previous editors of High Life include Scott Manson, former editor of the "lads' mag" Loaded.

The BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson, writes a column about his travels. Fashionistas have contributed city guides: the photographer Mario Testino on London, the designer Matthew Williamson on Milan and the model Erin O'Connor on Paris. David Beckham gave an interview to the magazine before the World Cup in which he revealed that, after retiring, he wants to do all the things he has not been allowed to up to now, such as skiing, snowboarding and riding motorbikes. Earlier this year, High Life secured an interview with Naomi Campbell.

Other features in the latest issue include a writer who has been dumped by his girlfriend and decides to visit Nashville, and a luxurious travel guide to Mozambique.

Qantas: The Australian Way

Editor: William Fraser

Publisher: ACP Magazines

Qantas has a whole continent to promote. Each month The Australian Way focuses on a different Australian city. The July issue features a guide to the shops, restaurants, bars and hotels of Brisbane, which is about to open a new gallery of modern art. In May, the magazine offered a comprehensive guide to Sydney.

Other articles explore hidden aspects of well-known Australian destinations, from Melbourne to Tasmania, Perth to the Great Barrier Reef.

Famous Aussies are featured prominently: from Sydney, the chef Neil Perry, and the X-Men star Hugh Jackman. The rest of the world does get a look in: there have been guides to Burgundy and Berlin in recent issues.