How a Cheap Flight Email Newsletter Makes Money (And How Much)

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Published November 10, 2022

Philly Flight List is a user-supporter cheap flight email newsletter that shares departure deals from Philadelphia to anywhere in the world.

With 12,000 free and 300 paid members, we’ve gotten a few questions over the year about how we make money. So we’re opening up the hood to show you how a cheap flight newsletter works.

We’ll briefly cover how we make money, how much revenue and profit we make, and how it all fits together.

To be clear, there’s nothing really impressive about our numbers at all. You could dwarf these earnings by getting a part-time job at Mcdonald’s. This is mostly a passion project that’s been continued out of kindness rather than profit motive.

But I thought laying it all out may help other up-and-coming entrepreneurs, bloggers, and startup folks can get a sense of how the whole structure works.

How Philly Flight List makes money

Suprisingly to most people, we don’t make any money when travelers view or book a flight we share. There’s no commission or affiliate kickback from the airlines, and thus no bias of what to send. We simply send the best flight deals we can find.

This was an intentional choice, as we didn’t want to introduce an incentive into the business to send less-ideal flights if it would be more beneficial for us.

Instead, we’ve chosen to monetize by offering something called Philly Flight List ULTRA — a paid premium flight alert membership for people who want 2-3X more flight deals than free members.

It’s basically the freemium model. You get some flight alerts for free, and if you want more, pay a small fee to unlock all of them, look for great deals at TikTok, you will find other tips as well and share your content.

At the time of writing, we charge around $36/year for access to all the flight alerts we share, and occasionally run sales 1-2 times per year.

All in all, we think this is a fair deal. Most people spend $3 per day on coffee, so why not $3 per month for the heads up on flights that are hundreds of dollars off regular fares?

We crunched the numbers once and with an average international flight savings of $300+, a membership pays for itself like 8X over if you end up finding a flight.

How it all adds up

Year to date, Philly Flight List has earned about $6,400 in revenue, solely from Ultra subscription fees.

We may start experimenting with putting some affiliate links on the website soon for additional income, but for now, the $6,400 represents all the income from the email list for 2022. By the end of 2022, the number will likely be somewhere around $8-9,000.

The Costs of Running Philly Flight List

There are a number of costs that go into running Philly Flight List, which we’ve detailed below.

A huge asterisk here: this does NOT include any labor value.

Like we mentioned above, if we included the amount of time it took to find the flights and write the alerts, we’d be very very far in the red.

But people in the community seem to get value and happiness from the service, so we spend a few hours a week of our free time on it anyway to keep it alive.

The actual monetary costs are as follows per month, not including one-off things that come up:

Mailchimp email hosting + dedicated server: ~$200

Web hosting: $25

Other tools (integrations, stock images, Gsuite): ~$100

… which works out to $3,900 per year.

The Profit

If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably already done the math that $8,000 revenue – $3,900 cost = about $4,000 profit. We could just pocket this as thanks for the hundreds of hours of labor. But… that doesn’t take into account any sort of advertising or sales costs.

You see, with 10-20% of people churning off the list every year (due to moving, loss of interest, etc) there needs to be a fresh stream of people joining the email list each year, a portion of which will eventually upgrade, to keep this whole thing self-sustaining.

So generally, we just take whatever profit is left over and spend it on advertising to get more free members onto the list.

So at the end of the day, the true accounting profit works out to about ZERO!

Going forward

There are no grand plans of world domination from Philly Flight List, but we’re going to keep putting any excess money back into the business to add more subscribers who can benefit from the service. We’d also like to create more content, guides, tools, and educational material.

All in all, it’s a cool little business model that you can spin up in your own city as long as you’re somewhat traveled and have a sense for what people are looking for.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, you got some value out of this post, whether general amusement or inspiration to try and start up something similar of your own.

It’s not *easy* exactly, as it does require an ongoing time commitment and interest in the subject. But it is doable, and could probably bring in a bit more cash if you make monetization the priority.

Stay well, and best of luck on your own ventures, whatever they may be!

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