7 years ago

British Airways targeting social media with first trip for bloggers

Much is made of how press trips have typically focused on traditional print and broadcast media journalists when showing off a new destination or product.

But in recent years travel bloggers have started to enter the minds of travel companies, especially as they often have tremendous influence through various social networks as well as their own sites.

Well, it appears that even British Airways is changing colours with its first ever press trip targeting travel bloggers this week on a jaunt to New York on its relatively new London City to JFK business-only route.

airbus A318 BA interior

The airline is whisking away a handful of UK bloggers for two nights at the stylish Soho Grand in Manhattan, all expenses paid, including the journey from LCY to JFK (a service which stops in Shannon, Ireland, on the way).

When the route launched in 2009, BA made much of the technological prowess of the aircraft being used, an Airbus 318, which was retrofitted to include in-air web connection, email and SMS facilities.

So inviting a group of bloggers along on a trip (with two BA representatives to guide them) is a logical but fair undertaking, especially as many of them will be blogging and tweeting on the flight.

Mark Hodson of 101Holidays is one of bloggers on the trip. He says:

“A number of tourist boards and hotels have run group facility trips for bloggers – or included a blogger on a press trip – but this is significant because British Airways is a big player with – up to now – a traditional approach to PR.

“It’s a good fit because the new OnAir inflight communications system allows bloggers can broadcast their reactions live on Twitter. This kind of instant coverage doesn’t come so naturally to old-school journalists.”

Nevertheless, the issue of bloggers going on press trips has been a thorny one to address over recent years.

Some consider their craft, dare we say it, purer than that of those who attend regular trips throughout the year – namely, print and broadcast reporters – and want to stay away, suggesting that their writing should not be influenced by the charms of an expensive trip (a ticket on the BA flight to NYC, for example, costs in the region of £4,000 return).

Such has been the ire on some blogs when the subject has come up that it has polarised not only the blogging community but also mainstream journalists, triggering wider discussions about the merits of press trips.

No doubt BA doesn’t really care too much about the controversies such trips can lead to (although it will be interesting to see how much additional TLC will be afforded the attendees).

So, finding out who else in on the trip was difficult, with the editor of TravelRants, Darren Cronian, who tweeted his involvement last week, the only other writer alongside Hodson admitting their presence.

Disclosure: This author was invited at the last minute… but declined the offer.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Travel bloggers – time to stop navel gazing and get on with the job. Please |

    […] British Airways targeting social media with first trip for bloggers […]

  2. Christine B.Osborne

    “try stuff out for yourself and draw your own opinions”………

    Have always done so. Plus a load of journos going anywhere together is my idea of hell.

    But we need the famous “Man Who Pays His Own Way” to comment.

    He won’t.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @christine – agree. A group of hacks (journos in the UK) together is almost as bad as a group of PRs.

      Ok, not *that* bad – but still pretty bad 🙂

  3. Darren Cronian

    It has taken me a little time to reply to the comments in the post, but, I was a little hungover from the in-flight champagne and I didn’t realise it had caused such a good debate.

    1) I was the only blogger on the trip, everyone else who attended were journos for magazines or online travel publishers. Not that it matters..

    2) It is important that you set out what your boundaries are to regards to what you will do in return for a free press trip. From the outset I said I would only write a post if they were travel issues, and I wouldn’t be writing fluffy reviews. What I did say is that I would tweet about my experiences using the in-flight internet and the flight.

    3) I got much more out of the trip than BA did, I was put up in a posh hotel, and flew Club World and visited a city that I had always wanted to visit, but at the time though I had over 12,000 people following me on Twitter, lots of my tweets were RT’d so I suppose my tweets from in-flight, got them some attention, plus I think the message it probably sent out was that BA were pretty brave to put someone like me on a flight when they knew I would tweet negative feedback if it all went horribly wrong.

    Would I do it again? Well, it depends on where they sent me! 😉

    The problem I have with press trips is from a businessy perspective, do they REALLY generate return on investment and time for travel companies, or, is it those fat juicy links that makes it all worthwhile, after all, the bloggers have to turn out tons of content (lots of it on the same subject) and the companies get higher rankings which equals more bookings.

    Its not about the voice bloggers give, its the links.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @darren – thx for chiming in, belatedly. Clearly a lot of champers to absorb, D.

      Wonder if links from Tweets really makes a difference – have yet to see any research which shows they do, apart form appearing in the social graph of friends.

      • Darren Cronian

        I agree regarding links from tweets – doubt any of my tweets would have led to a sale of a Club class seat too, but, links in blog posts reviewing destination/trip/experience on press trip would obviously aid the company SEO wise.

        Putting it another way, did I rush out and book a holiday to the Costas because of a ton of bloggers going on a press trip there, no.

        To be fair to the bloggers going on press trips though, if both parties are getting something out of it then go for it, but it seems like hard work to me, and well Leeds is much nicer 😉

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  5. Tim

    @ALL – just been offered a free trip on a carrier to attend a launch event. Should I take it?

  6. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Caitlin – And you’re perfectly entitled to make that choice. There are some travel writers who will take nothing at all extra because they feel it colors the writing. That very well could be true.

    As you said, it’s a personal decision.

  7. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales

    Thanks for the link, old chum!

    Just to clarify, my “ire” isn’t raised by other people taking press trips. They can do as they please. I’ve simply chosen not to, at least for the time being. It’s a personal decision.

  8. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Matt – Yeah, I didn’t see this coming at all… No, I’m NOT a copy writer. I actually go to the places I write about. I take my own photos, I write my own stories. I don’t use press releases for my stories. All my articles are my original work.

    However, I WORK for the magazine that I have a contract with. Part of my job is helping them sell advertising and get readers.

    If I’ve had a less than stellar visit somewhere, it IS reflected in my writing as I give them a lukewarm article versus a glowing one.

    However, as I stated previously, if the magazine is also trying to sell advertising, who wants to buy ads in a magazine that carries an article that says horrible things about a place?

    This might explain how I’ve been able to keep working in a tough economy while others are still looking for magazines to carry their articles after a year with no luck.

    However, I don’t think you need to trash a place in an article. I do talk to the people who set me up and let them know where I saw problems and it’s usually well received so…

    I don’t want to send readers on a bad vacation or visit but I have a responsibility to the magazine as well.

  9. Matt Parsons

    Nancy – surely you’re a copy writer then?

  10. Nancy M Dickinson

    Whether someone’s comping me or not, I’ll NEVER give a bad review.

    I’m not a travel reviewer, I’m a travel writer. My job is to sell a location to travelers.

    I have some, oh, let’s call them travel writers, get on me about this but I work with magazines (these “travel writers” only write for places like Assoc. Content). These magazines approach the destinations about which I write for advertising for the months the article about them is running. Who wants advertising that says, “ABC & Sons in Podunkville, AL, is one of the crappiest locations a person could ever find.”

    I just won’t do it. I’m not paid for my opinion, I’m paid for my writing (and in spite of what others might say, there’s a difference).

  11. buyer beware

    As I understand it, articles written for a site like simonseeks only generate revenue for the writer from sales so your copy has to sell or you don’t get paid. You are aligned with the company you are writing about since it is paying you on performance. This would traditionally have been thought of as PR.

  12. Jack Wilson

    Five years ago this animated conversation would not have occurred in public view. Everyone decides their own ethics and there is no one right answer. The positive of all this from my perspective is the “social” conversation it represents.

  13. Sophia

    Forgive me for being late to the conversation – I’ve been hosting this press trip as the PR rep from BA. I’ve been following the comments with interest and great to see there’s such a buzz around it.

    This trip was to promote the latest British Airways London City to New York service, incorporating the OnAir facility that allows customers to tweet, blog and go online in-flight from mobile handsets. The OnAir angle lends itself well to social media, so a few bloggers were invited, as well as print press from consumer technology and travel media.

    As a relatively new service, it was a great opportunity to get feedback from reporters from a wide variety of backgrounds. This is not the first time the online community has been invited to review products, in fact when the service launched in June last year there were a number of bloggers on the inaugural flight.

    However you stand on the subject, taking reporters on trips to familiarise themselves with a product is a popular approach and often the best way to experience a new service. Most journalists can detach from the hospitality of a PR and the importance of writing a balanced piece, and I don’t see why it would be any different for a blogger. I’m sure the coverage will speak
    for itself – do look out for it.

    Would I do the trip over again – definitely. The press and bloggers were insightful and honest, and it was a great opportunity to understand their business more, as well as ours.

    British Airways, Consumer PR

    • Jeremy Head

      Hi Sophia
      Did you put any specific requirements on the writers? NOT about what they could or couldn’t write about (sure you wouldn’t do that anyway) but about how many posts they should write or how much they should tweet? (ie in the past I’d imagine you’d require confirmation of a definite commission before accepting a print journo on a trip… what’s the equivalent for a blogger (if there is one?)

      • Sophia

        Hi Jeremy,
        As we were promoting the OnAir service we invited the press and bloggers to tweet/blog about the service in-flight.

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  15. Nikki Bayley

    @ Kevin… Blee – hard to spot even the most obvious irony after weeks of election-anxiety! Sorry!!

  16. Hal Peat


    I’d just add in a general way, regarding the issue of influencing content on a press trip, that it also helps to refine the conversation to the variations that come into the mix and agendas of those underwriting the particular trip. Obviously there can be nuances, insofar as you might have just an air carrier and hotel collaborating, along with some lesser parties at the destination, but I’d say the writer has some space to navigate once a tourism board or city tourism office is also onboard. Then it becomes a wider playing field for the writer, with a TB has a broader perspective of what should be on the writer’s radar than the hotel or airline publicist.

  17. Nikki Bayley

    Late replying as have been working with the awesome Green party in Brighton Pavilion getting the first Green MP elected… so apologies for not replying.
    So. Kevin: Re: Blair – journos who deceive are not good journos. He may have been a great fantasist but that really isn’t the point when it comes to news. “Flat Earth News” makes the point wonderfully, that reporters need to be OUT THERE finding stories, researching them etc – not just in the office regurgitating press releases. So for me – the chance to go somewhere – find the story – that’s what it’s all about.
    When it comes to the environment I’m a realist. I accept that things are not going to change overnight, people will still travel – I think it’s my job to show them ethical, sustainable alternatives and hope that they do those instead.
    Re: the plane wifi – @ Sheila – this is not an area I’ve researched at all & so was absolutely unaware that this was even available elsewhere – I’d have looked into it before I said “yes please” but from a news angle would have wanted to cover this to see how effective it was if it WAS a first.
    @ Ian – am absolutely NOT in this for freebies – am in this to make a living.
    @ Kevin – for me it’s not about what gets paid for gets written about – I write about places I track down myself… the same as i do on EVERY trip I go on. I’m always rather wary of being taken to business hotels & getting 5* dining every night – it’s not what my readers would do & it’s not what i want either. And yes – I know that sounds a bit unlikely – but why eat in A N Other corporate hotel when you can try amazing street food/local one-off restaurants etc that you’d never find anywhere else in the world – whole point of travel for me…
    RIGHT – enough. Apologies for any incoherence – I was up for about 28 hrs and feel a bit *odd*

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nikki – my apols, i thought i was being obviously ironic when I said i thought Blair was a pretty journo.

      and, yes, Nick Davies’ book is extraordinary and should be a standard text on any journalism course and, more importantly, bedside reading for every other reporter.

      NB: we’re not going to get anywhere bickering about the merits of being “out there”. Personally I think Tnooz is doing a pretty damn good job by doing the basics of speaking with contacts frequently, attending events, and getting around when it’s convenient and cost-effective.

      we are not researchers of destinations and therefore do not need any “colour” pieces required for hard-hitting B2B journalism.

      i can certainly see the “out there” point-of-view for travel writers, for obvious reasons (although I agree with Donald’s point above) but not in our case. sorry.

  18. Sheila Scarborough

    I suppose I’m mostly wondering where one could find a story angle from this trip and answer the “So What?” question.

    GoGo Inflight services have allowed Web access from the air for months now. All we’re going to get is “I’m tweeting from 30,000 feet over the Atlantic” as opposed to “I’m tweeting from 30,000 feet over Iowa.”

    The flight is also touting a business class route, and I don’t know many writers/photographers who normally avail themselves of the forward part of the aircraft. Does that mean we’ll get mostly, “Wow, the seats don’t suck up here?”

    The blogger angle is pretty tired as well; I went as a family travel blogger on a Virginia tourism organization’s press trip in mid-2007. Maybe BA has a different definition of “cutting edge” than other firms.

  19. DonaldS

    Bit late to this but… The major problem I see with accepting press trips and other freebies is simply that “what gets paid for, gets written about”. The bias is in the sample, not necessarily the writer feeling “obliged” to be positive. Just ask a small hotelier with no media contacts, PR nous, or marketing budget. I never accept press trips, and only very rarely (with self-created guidelines) free accommodation, because I think it produces better work and removes one potential source of (perhaps unintentional) bias.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @donald – excellent points. And thanks for bringing them to the debate.

      One wonders whether those on the trip will only be writing about the BA aircraft and the Soho Grand when they get back, rather than what other hotels are in the same area for the same price or other business class-only airlines on the same route.

      [whoops, there goes SilverJet, EOS et al]

  20. Nancy M Dickinson

    “We’ve become a lot more vigilant about seeing written proof of a confirmed commission lately. Which in itself can cause some people to be affronted…”

    Being asked by an airline or travel board to see proof of commission causes me no angst whatsoever. In fact, I prefer to show them I have a commission. It keeps things clean and everyone knows up front what’s what.

    If someone’s upset over it, I’d lean towards their having something to hide. But that’s just me. I’m a true cynic.

    Were I a food critic, I’d want as much anonymity as possible. I’d have no problem paying for my food. If the restaurant, diner, whatever, knew I was there, the atmosphere of the establishment would change and I’d have a difficult time getting a “true” review.

  21. Ian McKee


    Yeah, and then there’s them. We’ve become a lot more vigilant about seeing written proof of a confirmed commission lately. Which in itself can cause some people to be affronted…

    Incidentally, I just thought I’d mention that travel is not the only industry where bloggers and PRs are having trouble finding ways to work with each other. Food bloggers are also affronted by the idea of freebies, and back in August last year the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog waded into that debate – a lot of echoes of the travel blog trip debate here. Quite interesting.

  22. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Jeremy and Ian – the travel writers with whom I take issue when it comes to comps are those who want the comps on the off chance they “might” write an article or two.

    Like I said, I don’t take anything for free unless I have a contract.

    Heck, I don’t write a word beyond the pitch until I have the contract. I don’t do anything for free.

  23. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Jeremy – I DO accept comps but I’m always reluctant with regard to those.

    I don’t make any contact with the appropriate people until I have a contract and I’ve actually been kind of chewed out by travel persons at high levels because, “Nancy, you have a contract. You can ask for comps. That’s what we’re here for.”

    I won’t say no to a comp but I’m always afraid to ask.

    I will admit, I DO enjoy travel writing a great deal due to its affording me the chance to see places I wouldn’t ordinarily see. The articles I pitch are only about places I’d like to see, as a traveler. However, once I’m there, I try to see things as a tourist.

    Being a travel writer makes vacations much more affordable thanks to the comps.

  24. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Ian – the side benefit is there are bloggers writing about BA’s destinations, and, oh, by the way, you can get there on BA with X number of flights daily.

    I’m offered Fam trips and don’t often go, not because I don’t want to do so but because I have trouble finding the time to do them all.

    I will say, it’s unusual for a Fam trip to include air fare this expensive, across the ocean, but it’s not unheard of. Generally, travel writers are responsible for getting to the destination on their own and then the rest is comped.

    I’m just hoping I can figure out how to talk to BA and Aer Lingus about comping me a plane ticket to Dublin from the US for an article I’ve been contracted to do about Dublin. Anyone have any suggestions?

  25. Matt Parsons

    I think it’s a good move by BA, at least they are experimenting…

    And not so long ago a certain blogger wrote: ‘Familiarisation trips in the Travel industry should be banned’ (Link here: http://tinyurl.com/c8vdhg)
    Darren said: “There’s not only the environmental impact these types of familiarisation trips have but what message is this sending about the travel industry.”

    This stunt by BA shows how quickly the media landscape in the travel industry is changing

  26. Nikki Bayley

    Kevin. You ARE joking, right?! Look what happens to reporters who lock themselves away in their apartments and never go out there to discover stories… reporters, like New Yorker Jayson Blair!
    My tip? Get a lighter laptop! Get out there. Get the story. 🙂

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nikki – thanks for that top tip. clearly i haven’t learned much over the years about being a reporter! 😉

      And there was me thinking Blair was a pretty good journo who jsut got unlucky because he was found out.

      As i asked before, what’s a decent angle for Tnooz going to NYC on a jolly (an angle that’s worth spending two days flying (once you add commuting, check-in at the airport, etc)?) and being away from video conferencing on skype, constant and reliable (and cheap!) web connection, giving me the ability to post stories any minute.

      Tnooz is B2B, I have no need to lap up the atmosphere of the Big Apple and make use of the travel stories literally (by all accounts) spurting like steam from the drains in the street.

      Every travel exec I speak to for stories that is based in the New York area is also sitting behind their desk, the same as me.

      Anyway, must go and hang out the washing in the garden, catch some fresh air (it’ll be the first time for months).


    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nikki again – from your Great Green World blog:

      “Yes, in an ideal world, we’d always travel by the most sustainable means possible. But hey – who said this was an ideal world? So this is about encouraging people to try to do the right thing when it comes to making travel choices, wherever and whenever we can.”

      By not going on a jolly to NYC I reckon I’m also trying “to do the right thing” for the environment, don’t you think? 😉

  27. Nikki Bayley

    well – my office is wherever my laptop & a wifi signal is! So that 3 days out doesn’t really count – also – are you kidding? You can’t find a story in New York City?! This, by itself, was a story for me – and warrants covering.
    I have no issue with accepting hospitality – so long as it’s understood that doesn’t buy a good review.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nikki – errrr, you’ve just defeated your own argument. Why do I need to go to NYC to get a story when I have a laptop and wifi and skype at home to talk to people?! 😉

  28. Nancy M Dickinson

    @Ian – press trips like this are a crap shoot for companies such as BA. There are a lot of travel writers out there for the freebies and nothing else. I, for one, won’t accept anything until I have a contract to write about a location, and even then, I have a hard time accepting free travel, etc.

    I think it CAN work for BA as it generates buzz online about the locations to which they fly as well as the airline. If SEO is used properly, surfers looking for anything to do with BA, or one of their destinations, will stumble across the blog entry and read more about it, if for no other reason than they can, in order to learn about them from someone who’s been there but doesn’t work for the airline or a tourism board.

    I wonder if they have considered the return on their investment? Is it worth it to comp several people on one of these jaunts? Are they tracking writer’s postings and asking people, “How did you hear of us?”

    • Ian McKee

      Believe me Nancy, I know how many travel writers are out there for freebies!

      I doubt BA will be tracking the results that concisely, it’s very rare that any PR campaign is as concise as working out exactly how many customers came to the company as a result. But I’m sure they’re monitoring what the writers are saying.

      What I’m really asking though, is what’s the true reach of doing this? Without the side stories saying ‘BA supporting blog trip’, is it worth it? People like Darren and Mark are both influential and have pretty sizeable Twitter followings, but are a few Tweets from them worth a seat on that flight? Are they more worthwhile than a travel or business writer who’d write it up in the Guardian or Telegraph…?

      Mark mentions the live aspect, and how this doesn’t come as easily to ‘old school journalists’, but a lot of business and travel journalists are tweeting and blogging (Mark’s done his fair share of old school journalism himself!), so is it an either/or? Traditional media Vs blogger?

      • Kevin May

        Kevin May

        @ian – good points.

        Darren and Mark’s more recent tweets have been about shopping, so what’s the value there>?!

        And, one presumes, Darren will only write it up for Travel Rants if something goes wrong 😉

      • Jeremy Head

        Hi Ian
        How many travel writers are out there for freebies? Genuine question. Is it a real issue?

        • Ian McKee

          @Jeremy Well, there’s a question!

          In my honest opinion, the majority of travel writers are out there for freebies. Most have a good idea of what is reasonable to expect, a small minority are basically con artists trying to play the system, and then a few are new to the game, so don’t know what is reasonable. That third group can either ask the world and be outraged when they don’t get it, or not expect anything then be eternally grateful for a discounted room rate…

          It can be an issue, yes. People get irate when they’re not offered what they feel they deserve. Egos get involved.

          Honestly though, I don’t begrudge them. Nancy explains below that basically, she’s in travel writing because she enjoys travelling. I imagine you would say the same. I understand the moral issues, but at the end of the day most travel writers are in travel writing to travel, and it’s pretty hard to make a living out of that without accepting a few freebies!

  29. Ian McKee

    Ah blog trips. My favourite subject.

    Forget the ethics, no offence to anyone who’s ‘ire’ is invoked by the idea of a comp trip, but I think that subject’s been done a death.

    What about whether this tactic will actually work for BA? So far blog trips have only gained PR coverage by virtue of being fairly novel, in articles like this one. I realise that BA offering seats to bloggers is a story, but I’m not really interested until it’s all happened and we can evaluate whether it was really worth it for them…

    By the way Darren, was very surprised to see you confirmed on the trip, makes more sense after reading what you’ve said here though!

  30. Cruisesdotco

    we are a leading forum website called http://www.cruises.co.uk and recently we decided to take some of contributors on ship launches as a token of our appreciation for the contribution they make to our website. And it went down really well, they where all very grateful for the opportunity given.

  31. Nancy M Dickinson

    As a travel writer on a budget, I write for both an online site as as well as a well-known national/regional travel magazine. I just found out today a story I pitched the magazine about Dublin is wanted and they are putting together the contract now.

    How amenable are the airlines such as British Airways to helping writers such as myself who are freelance under contract and don’t have the financial resources of a magazine behind us?

  32. Hal Peat

    Kevin said:

    “Some consider their craft, dare we say it, purer than that of those who attend regular trips throughout the year – namely, print and broadcast reporters – and want to stay away, suggesting that their writing should not be influenced by the charms of an expensive trip (a ticket on the BA flight to NYC, for example, costs in the region of £4,000 return).

    Such has been the ire on some blogs when the subject has come up that it has polarised not only the blogging community but also mainstream journalists, triggering wider discussions about the merits of press trips.”

    Well, since you speak here in very broad generalities, I’m not sure how those statements can hold up when you look at the particular history of incidents surrounding press trips on *both* sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps you have a case if you refined all that just to speak about a large segment of British travel bloggers? The fact is, however, that longtime travel journalists in general have never had any huge issue about the ethics of comp travel — press travel has always just been a given and accepted part of the equation of how any independent journalist is going to have to operate to get the story done. The so-called “ethics” of comp travel was only resurrected by a certain subset of American travel *bloggers* starting around 2008-2009 because they perceived it as a useful weapon to attack and disparage travel writers in other media with. One example was the Jetblue inaugural route press trip last year that got some of “the bloggerati” in a major knickers twist because they didn’t get to go on it, so again a major occasion to pontificate about press trips ethics (see: thread on Matador initiated by editor Page). But the second they got to go on those trips courtesy Princess Cruises, Transatlanticism and various pr firms like BVK PR, Y Partnership and Diamond PR, the tune changed immediately. Suddenly, not only did ethics have nothing to do with anything, but sometimes the questionable motives of the trip sponsorer also became the right agenda to tout online later.

    Of course, your observation that “the subject…has polarised…the blogging community” is pure music to my ears on a busy Tuesday. Now, if you could just let me also know where I can send my donation to whichever side in the polarised community took an ethical stand against the TeaBexers? Hats off to them, wherever they may be.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      aah Hal, we’ve been waiting for you 😉

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @hal – in all seriousness, valid points.

      You are absolutely right, many travel journalists have never had a problem with freebies.

      As for the other points, you need to attract the attention of your adversaries and ask them to comment.

      My comments were based on experience within the circle of journalists and bloggers I know, not necessarily those you have a problem with.

  33. Nikki Bayley

    I’ve been pondering this one a lot… and I think it’s something that Jeremy has touched on a few times over at his site – how ARE you meant to fund trips as a travel writer in these rather grim economic times in the middle of the biggest change in publishing?
    There are fewer commissions to be had – so many papers, mags etc hand out travel pieces on press trips to subs, photographers, interns etc as a perk of the job. Blogs so far aren’t quite self-funding… Add to that crowd-sourced Reader Tips spreads and the inevitable Celeb Travel spot – and where is the chance of a well-written and researched piece from a travel writer?
    So – if you finally DO get a commission how are you to make a living from it? I have to say that I’m OK with accepting a press trip. No one I write for – from the Mirror to simonseeks is going to pay for my travel costs etc – which is where the press trip comes in. I think so long as it’s declared that XYZ paid for the trip then hopefully you have enough integrity as a writer to be honest about how it was… Most commissions don’t WANT pieces slating a destination though. Good luck trying to place a feature that rages about the trip. One editor told me to adopt the “Sh*t sandwich approach” to any copy I handed in – wrap any bad news in good.
    Before I go anywhere, I research endlessly, search blogs etc for recommendations, read widely and then go & hope to find gems to tell people about. If I do that – does it really matter who paid for me to stay there?
    With ref to this specific trip – this feels like a news story that if i ran tnooz, I’d have leapt at the chance to cover & I’m baffled that you haven’t. This could be quite a breakthrough in travel – I’m following Darren & love that he’s merrily tweeting from 35,000 feet!

    • Jeremy Head

      Just in case anyone wants to read more on this topic… the post on my blog that Nikki refers to in her comment above is here:
      Enjoy… there’s plenty of VERY opinionated stuff on there… it’s an interesting debate and I agree that there are for now no easy answers.
      By the way Kevin I’m inclined to agree with Nikki… Did your your principles get in the way of a genuine story here? 😉

      • Kevin May

        Kevin May

        @jeremy – i think i’ve got a genuine story here, don’t you? I don’t need to go on a freebie to NYC courtesy of BA to understand the technical prowess of an aircraft. We had Mr Rants and Mr 101 tweeting away throughout the flight to prove it 😉

        • Jeremy Head

          Well… in this instance you know them both and know you can trust their opinions. It’s rare that you’d have that luxury normally I’d suggest (ie being able to piggy back off other peoples’ research). You could I suppose argue that’s the beauty of the web… everyone gets to share… but I’d suggest that it’s better to try stuff out for myself and draw your own conclusions.

          • Jeremy Head

            Sorry. That should of course read…”… try stuff out for yourself and draw your own opinions”

      • Kevin O'Sullivan

        Nikki/Jeremy – what is the story that you think Tnooz are missing out on? This is not a brand new route, OnAir is not a brand new service, having bloggers on board is not a brand new concept.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nikki – all good points, thanks for contributing.

      So, if you ran Tnooz, what would be your angle for the trip and justification for spending three days away from the (home) office?

  34. SCAM - Stop City Airport Masterplan

    Here are some facts that BA may decide to not mention to the bloggers…

    * The A318 from LCY – JFK is the highest polluting jet per passenger in the British Airways arsenal.

    * The route has a very poor take up , especially the LCY – JFK portion of the trip. Direct from JFK tends to be fuller.

    * London City Airport is based in the most densely populated areas in the UK.

    * Last week the airport had two emergencies in one day , debris on the runway where it is breaking up , and a full on flight emergency with smoke in a planes cockpit.

    * The average user of LCY earns £99,000 a year. The below average wage of residents around LCY is less than £25,000.

    * The average income of families using London City Airport is £116,000. Compared to Newham , where the airport is based m a whopping 33,000 familes live on less than £15,000 per year.

    I hope that helps create a more balanced approach to the airport. Great article.


    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @SCAM [sic] – thanks for contributing. i suspect your bulletpoints were not included in the presspack.

  35. Maxine Sheppard

    Hi Kevin,

    Unfortunately our press trip to New York had to be postponed due to the volcanic ash situation but we will be rearranging it soon. It was specifically a press trip for bloggers though, with one place made available for our competition winner.

    Although the T&Cs sound strong, I wouldn’t expect to have (or want) any editorial control whatsoever over what our prize winner writes on his own blog. It’s entirely up to him. We would just hope that Virgin Atlantic’s products and services speak for themselves 🙂

    Obviously with regards to the piece he writes for our blog, we’ll discuss it together in the same way as I would do with any writer I commission, and of course, he’ll be paid for it at the same rate as any other writer.

    I hope that whatever people’s views are on the thorny issue of press trips, bloggers, journalists, et al, they’ll at least agree that we are trying to be completely transparent and honest about our aims and certainly not expecting anyone to do anything that goes against their principles or makes them feel uncomfortable.

    Maxine Sheppard
    Editor – vtravelled.com

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @maxine – thanks for dropping by and updating us on the VTravelled blogger competition.

      I am curious as to how you would handle (perish the thought that it would happen though) things if Mr Blogger had an awful time and wrote a series of scathing articles about the experience, but forgot to put the link in. Would you be so keen to enforce the TandCs then?

      I am sure everything will be fine. Let’s see how the BA bloggers get on eh? 😉

  36. Joantxo

    Dear all,

    I can easily understand the concern of Kevin because it is also my concern as a brand executive. Trying to influence always positive in the work of an influencer is just the aptitude that you for sure will get from a brand or company that it is not “surfing the tsunami social media environment” that the tourist brands and the whole world is surrounded by. But then you have other tourist boards like us, who are currently working on a web 2.0 philosophy since 2004. We are bloggers and twitters, we work with Google docs, we develop projects thru wikis, we attend to conferences and meetings to be just aware of how the conversation is moving, where the people is talking, how the people is connecting,… We are coachers of our tourist industry to show them the dangers (not really when you get to know them) but also the opportunities (great opportunities). In the other hand I am the responsible for organising the press and fam trips of the brand http://www.landofvalencia.com and never it has been in my mind for the last 20 years to influence or modify a negative message perceive in the fams I produce.

    We use storytelling as regular bases, we promote the real facts and wonders of the destination and then, it is up to the professionals to write about it as an independent professional (traditional media or social media). It is true that I must be with them assisting and correcting the negative perception but never laying or trying to modify the final thought. I need to be with them in order to get the feedback of the market, the sensibility of the influencers, to get to no the person at the end. If you are professional, no body could change the perception no matter it is good or bad. But it is also true that those non professional boards or media exist. But that is another subject.

    By the way, fill free to come any time to visit our land. I will be the perfect host for you or no, that will depend on your preferences. And then, write about your subjective perception. That is the purpose of our social media strategy: to get personality to the content, your content, your vision.

    I am organising blogtrips for bloggers, podcasters, twitters and webtv’s for the last five years. The last one is leaving this afternoon to Madrid and his name is Gary Arndt, the first travel blogger by Alexa http://everything-everywhere.com/ and tomorrow I am taking Lillie to the Maestrazgo http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/.

    Take care and fell free to accept our invitation. We will design together the itinerary, see you

  37. Claude

    Héhé, interesting

    @Kevin, will see what’s happen with my project 🙂

    Seems we will change the game at large scale

    Have a nice day


  38. Tim

    I am still desperately trying to get on the Louis Vuitton Luggage review list. Any tips on how to do so gratefully received 🙂

  39. Pamela

    Bravo to BA for being so brave. Thanks guys for keeping it real!

  40. Cynthia

    BA is actually quite behind in this. Blogger press trips might be new for them, but I believe it is in response to Virgin Atlantic’s embracing blogger press trips. They have had two in the recent months. The first from NY to London with “style bloggers” from sites like Refinery29 and HintMag, and the second from London to NY: http://blog.vtravelled.com/join-us-on-a-fantastic-trip-to-new-york/

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @cynthia – are you sure?

      The latter Virgin trip was actually a competition for one blogger to go to NYC.

      Some pretty strong T&Cs, too:

      [all hail the free press eh and their valuable SEO links]

      * We will ask you to share your experiences by blogging at least one post before the trip commences, at least one post during the trip and at least one further post after the trip ends. If time does not permit you to complete the entries during the trip, you will complete them at the end of the trip. In each post there will be at least one direct link to vtravelled.com

      * You will write one guest post for the vtravelled blog, the angle of which will be discussed with us either during or after the trip. You will be paid for this at our standard rate.

  41. Darren Cronian

    Haha. No pressure then.

    I have to add that I do think its rather brave of BA to allow a travel ranter on board. The challenge for me will be to look beyond the gloss and glamour of the trip, and tweet back improvements and issues.

  42. Darren Cronian

    I have been critical in the past of pr/blogger trips because the communication is not balanced, and always positive. The organisers at BA know this, but to confirm, I will not be writing blog posts on or after the trip. (unless, like 99% of the content on Travel Rants, I have a negative experience).

    I will be using Twitter, Facebook, and surfing the internet on my mobile phone, while flying, and will share my thoughts and experiences, like I always do on Twitter. That’s providing the internet service works in-flight 😉

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @darren – we wouldn’t expect anything positive from you, sir. 😉

  43. Happy Hotelier

    Did you decline out of principle or because of other pressing matters?

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @happy hotelier: principle.

      • Jeremy Head

        Principle? Really? Why. Serious question.

        • Kevin May

          Kevin May


          Decided years ago that I wouldn’t go on any travel press jollies.

          I’m very uneasy about taking someone’s apparently free hospitality, supposedly buddying up with the company, especially when it is implied that nothing is wanted in return – of course, nothing is ever that clear.

          So, what’s the point of going on a jolly then? None that I can see…

          The entire team at a former employer used to be taken away for a major piss-up (inevitably in Spain) once a year by a big company. The whole idea made me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I never went.

          I love writing about the bosses and machinations of big companies, but I don’t want to take their hospitality and get trashed with them overseas for a few days.

          It’s very stubborn attitude and I’ve had many arguments over the years with people that say it’s stupid – but hey, I’m stubborn and stupid anyway 😉

          Anyway, you did ask…….

          • Jeremy Head

            I think you are being a tad disingenuous labelling all press trips ‘jollies’.
            Some are… I know what you mean. But I think there’s some value in this one. (And I wasn’t invited and have no affiliation with BA!)


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