Malaysia Airlines is taking its inflight magazine Going Places onto the iPad, with a digital edition now available free from the iTunes App Store.
But that doesn't mean the airline will be handing out an iPad to every passenger, unfortunately. The printed edition will still be stuffed into seat pockets.
Malaysia Airlines says the Going Places app is all about bringing the magazine to people who aren't necessarily flying with the airline but still want to read the articles.
Australian Business Traveller can spot a couple of immediate flaws in that strategy:
- Inflight magazines are generally the poor cousin of 'real' magazines in terms of readability and quality, although their quality is worst with airlines in the US where they are little more than glorified catalogues for specialist doctors and country clubs. Malaysia Airlines' Going Places isn't nearly that bad.
- These magazines are the one thing you can be certain to can amuse yourself with during the boring 30 minute ascent and descent periods when everything electronic has to be switched off. If you've already read the inflight mag on your iPad before getting on the plane, you'll have to remember to bring something else to read.
However, sometimes there are good articles in inflight magazines that are not otherwise available online to share with other people. You can also browse the inflight entertainment guide before you fly to decide whether there's anything worth watching, or whether you should stuff your iPad full of movies and TV shows.
Unfortunately, on Australian Business Traveller's iPad, the app crashed repeatedly as we turned pages of the inflight magazine; something that definitely doesn't happen with the real magazine in the aircraft.
Are printed inflight magazines dying?
This can't help but raise the question, are printed inflight magazines on the way out?
They're big money spinners for airlines, with advertising sold at a lucrative rate. Air travellers are considered by advertisers to be a choice target audience to reach, due to the fact that they naturally fit into a higher spending demographic.
Although some airlines have mooted getting rid of inflight magazines from seat pockets as a weight (and hence fuel) saving, other airlines have gone in the other direction.
Qantas not only produces an inflight magazine for all passengers worldwide, it produces a special magazine for the top 1% of its Frequent Flyer member base, called Air.
Singapore Airlines has experimented with replacing the print version of its Silverkris inflight magazine with one that can be read via the seat-back monitor. Its trial of the digital magazine has appeared in its Boeing 777-300 and Airbus A380 aircraft so far.
Emirates has also talked about its plans to replace paper magazines with a digital version on high resolution inflight entertainment monitors on its A380s.
Locally, Jetstar is soon to launch an iPad-based inflight entertainment system which may also carry a digital version of the inflight magazine. However, as iPads will be rented out to passengers individually, it is likely that Jetstar will continue producing a printed magazine.