What's the best-read magazine in the skies? Whatever airlines put behind the barf bags. For carriers, in-flight mags are monopoly marketing at its rarest--an opportunity to seize the bleary eyeballs of captive, bored customers. But are they good reading? Fast Company went airborne to see.
American Way (American Airlines)
Our Take: This slick bimonthly features the "Celebrated Weekend," in which an interchangeable celebrity of the moment gives the lowdown on a favorite city. This works, or not, depending on your interest in, say, actor Mark Wahlberg and his deep knowledge of Boston.
Requisite Boss Letter: Gerard Arpey isn't just the CEO--he's a licensed pilot! In one column, he tells how a plane stops. Good stuff.
FC Rating: 3 (out of 4). A clever approach.
Readership: 2.8 million
Attache (US Airways)
Our Take: Attache's business columnist, Daniel Gross, covers with wit and depth such topics as the meaning of corporate colors. And Attache isn't afraid to have a little fun: Its October issue features a Wienermobile on the cover and a story about "nomadic advertising."
Requisite Boss Letter: David Siegel's column, larded with details of his employees' lives, reads like a political speech. That's not good.
FC Rating: 3.5. Slip this into your briefcase.
Readership: 1.5 million
Continental (Continental Airlines)
Our Take: This mag is as skimpy as most airline meals. The covers are buttoned down--Carly Fiorina smiling in a business suit--and the contents are similarly cautious. No Hollywood big shots here, which may be just fine for Continental's pin-striped fans.
Requisite Boss Letter: Gordon Bethune knows how to keep his comments short. If only he didn't write like someone in the PR department.
FC Rating: 2. Like a saltine: a little dry and thin.
Readership: 1.8 million
Hemispheres (United Airlines)
Our Take: Filled with surprises: distinctive abstract covers, impressive photos, and adventurous editorial. Hemispheres features faux Faulkner and Hemingway contests, a series of short stories called "Row 22, Seats A&B," and a top-flight golf columnist in A.G. Pollard Jr.
Requisite Boss Letter: Glenn F. Tilton could use a lesson in self-editing. But the guy cut his own pay last April, so we cut him slack.
FC Rating: 3.75. This is as good as it gets.
Readership: 1.7 million
Southwest Airlines Spirit (Southwest)
Our Take: The tone of this Texas-based magazine (published by the folks who do American Way) is a bit spicy, but it sticks to the standard formula of a city magazine (do we really need another hottest new chefs article?). Its business quizzes, however, did catch our eye.
Requisite Boss Letter: We love Colleen Barrett's bit: concise and personal. And dig her playful photo, smiling mischievously.
FC Rating: 2.75. A city mag aloft.
Readership: 2.8 million