Tell-tale signs of a free press flight


There once was a time (long before I started this writing lark) when airlines were only too willing to offer free flights to travel writers. The usual payback for them was a mention in the factbox at the end of the article that would later be produced. The world has moved on and now you find travel writers frequently bemoaning an airline’s reluctance to offer a seat on a plane, even when the writer is heading out to write an article that might promote one of their most important routes.

It turns out that for many airlines a measly factbox mention is not enough, and those airlines that are willing to give a writer a seat often do so on the condition that they are mentioned not only in the factbox but also in the body of the main article.

So, dear reader, if you’re reading a travel article from a far-flung place and see casual observations like these appear randomly in the text, you may have stumbled across the writer’s not-so-subtle payment to the airline in exchange for their flight.


“As the driver hit each dune with increasing speed we bounced around happily in the back of the jeep, grateful that our Airline X flight had been wonderfully smooth in comparison.”

“I sat watching the sun gently dipping towards the dreamy sand, and looking up I wondered if the vivid vapour trail above was being made by the same Airline X flight on which I had arrived, barely 24 hours earlier.”

“The fields stretched out to the horizon, as verdant as the bold, contemporary logo of the Airline X flight that whisks a steady stream of passengers here from London.”

“We made our way to the remote village squeezed into a make-shift taxi with a dozen locals; a far cry from the generous leg room we had enjoyed with our upgraded Airline X seats.”

“I was following a tip from the man in seat 14A on our Airline X flight, who told me that all the locals like to eat fried chicken out of a cardboard box.”

“I finally tasted the famous local fish curry, which for no particular reason reminded me of the chicken breast with potatoes and baby carrots I’d eaten on the Airline X flight.”

“As I watched the couple eating without exchanging so much as a glance, I was reminded of a scene in one of the episodes of Friends I had watched on the Airline X flight.”

“The writer of the article in the Airline X in-flight magazine I’d read on my journey out was not wrong; this was indeed a splendid land of contrasts.”



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Freelance travel writer

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