Inflight Magazines: The Holy Grail of Travel Writing
Every travel writer wants to see his or her work in airline inflight magazines. We consider them the Holy Grail of travel writing, and we covet these bylines like gold. Inflights pay well, hundreds of thousands of people read them, and they are prestigious bylines to have in your collection.
So, you can imagine how delighted I was when I received an e-mail from the editor of Emirates Open Skies inflight saying, “We’d like to run your article about the funerary sculptures at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in an upcoming issue.” Open Skies pays a dollar per word, which is great.
And, I knew at that moment that I’d broken into the top level of the travel writing food chain! But getting my story published in this inflight wasn’t a fluke. There’s a formula for getting into these magazines…and I followed it to the letter. At the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, I learned that it really helps to know your publication, which meant I had to do some homework upfront. This especially applies to inflights because they receive several dozen pitches each day (mostly from writers who don’t follow protocol and pitch all the wrong stories) — so any inside knowledge you can gather is to your advantage. And here’s what else I did to increase my chances of publication in Open Skies…
I’d previously studied the articles published in this inflight and noted that they liked articles about art, and that the travel articles seemed to cover exotic places. The beautiful necropolis and sculptures at Pere Lachaise Cemetery met both of these criteria. Check!
Jennifer Stevens will tell you at the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop that you always need a story “angle” to pitch and you should never just e-mail the editor and say: “Hey, I’m traveling to Paris in August, do you want any stories from there?” That’ll surely send your e-mail to the trash folder. The 109-acre Pere Lachaise cemetery is one of Paris’s major tourist attractions. After walking through the uneven, gray cobblestone labyrinth of streets, “meeting” its famous people, and admiring the amazing statues in this atmospheric cemetery, I just had to write a story about it.
But what angle could I pitch? The angle was staring me in the face, in the form of water-streaked bronze and green copper statues, flawlessly carved white marble statues of angels, nymphs, and small children, and life-sized metal and marble busts. I pitched a story about the cemetery’s breathtaking funerary sculptures — many created by famous sculptors — as my “angle.”
Check. And, of course, when you’re pitching your travel stories to an inflight, make sure they’re destinations for the airline. No inflight is going to run a story about a place that their airline doesn’t fly. You can find airline destinations online with a little hunting around. In the case of my story, I knew that Paris is an Emirates Airlines destination. Check.
Another factor for my success with this publication was that I offered a gallery of high-resolution photos to accompany my story. Check. Now perhaps you’re concerned that breaking into inflights may be too much of a challenge for you as a beginner. Ah, but the answer is simple: start by pitching regional airlines.
I had several stories published in Harbors, the inflight for our regional airline, Kenmore Air, and got some great gigs out of it. I had comped stays at a luxury inn that was identical to George Washington’s home and two other summer resorts in the Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands as a result of these earlier assignments.
And don’t forget to pitch cruise line onboard magazines, too. My travel stories have been published in onboards for Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Holland America Cruise Line. All pay well and are in the same league as inflights. And the querying process is identical to inflights. Breaking into inflights and onboards may appear daunting. But if you have a story that you think would be a good fit, you should never hesitate to pitch it. Just follow the formula and you’re in. Share on Facebook.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]