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Securing flight, ferry or rail support

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Securing flight, ferry or rail support

During my seven years as a fully-fledged travel journalist, getting airline support has gradually become more difficult. It was never easy in the first place, but by 2019 there were far fewer airlines willing to provide free flights in exchange for sole inclusion in the subsequent factbox(es). The losses carriers have incurred during the pandemic will only make things tougher.

I think we all understand their reluctance. When it comes to seats they’ve otherwise got a reasonable chance of selling, giving away a free seat in exchange for a solitary factbox line is hard to swallow. The same applies to Eurostar and other international or domestic train operators, and to ferry firms.

Hence why it’s ever more common for said companies to offer support with a whopping big condition: “yes we’ll provide free tickets, but only if the journalist agrees to mention us in the copy.” This, if it even needs saying, is wholly unrealistic for us writers: how many travel features do you see with a namecheck for an airline at the start? Almost none. While they are theoretically possible – discussing pre-arrival anticipation or post-departure glee – such inclusions just don’t fit in first-person stories.

Another common scenario involves the offer of only a discount – usually a measly one – to the journalist. But as journalists typically earn such paltry fees, even a 50% fare could see us spending more than we’re set to make.

So what to do amid this growing impasse? There are a few possible ways to try and talk the airline, train firm or ferry operator around:

  • If the writer is open to this, and has sufficient follower numbers to be called a micro influencer, could they be persuaded to do a couple of Instagram or Twitter posts about said transport company? Perhaps even about a new feature the company is keen to shout about?
  • If the transport company has a blog or internal magazine, would the writer be willing to contribute a small piece there for free? 

Failing that, I think it’s simply a case of aiming for non-peak flight times, being as flexible as possible around dates or trying to lean on good relations – tour operators often have more chance of scoring freebies from airlines, for instance, because of all the business they bring – or tour ops themselves will often host the trip.

I’d be interested in your thoughts and experiences here. Can we journalists do something to boost your chances of persuading an airline or train firm?

What Richard Thinks…

“I really appreciate the simplicity of Lawrence’s release’s main section: to-the-point headline, key info, quotes and weblink. Bish, bash, bosh. Nothing extraneous at all. Nice.”

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