Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Friendlier Flights with Social Seating!

You could be in store for a much friendlier flight for upcoming summer trips.  That is, if you opt into “social seating”. 
Yep, social media is going up into the skies with KLM and Malaysian Airlines.  They have introduced programs for travelers to choose the people they sit by during their flights.  KLM calls it “Meet and Seat”; Malaysian Airline’s program is named MHBuddy.  Both allow confirmed ticket holders to upload and share information from Facebook or LinkedIn profiles and then view data that other participants have shared.  Then, you just search until you find the perfect travel-mate.  It might be someone with similar interests, shared friends, going to the same conference as you, or just an attractive member of the opposite sex.  Just remember, the systems send messages containing your info to whomever you choose to sit beside, so there is no ‘secret stalking’ taking place. 
The airline industry as a whole has been slow to transition into the social media scene.  You might remember a few years ago when several airlines attempted to build social media sites out of their existing frequent flier members (Virgin Atlantic and Air France to name a few).  Those didn’t fare well, but Meet and Seat and MHBuddy are different because they tap into users current social media networks, a much lower buy-in cost for fliers.
Outside the airlines, the “find a friend on your flight” concept is also gaining popularity.  Planely, a startup that launched in 2010, allows users who submit their itineraries to view the Facebook and Linkedin profiles of others who will be on flights. 
Sadly, none of these allow you to choose who you DON’T sit by (aka, as far away from potential crying babies as possible).
So, who uses these programs?  Research shows that “social seating” appeals mostly to business travelers (going to trade shows and conferences) and backpackers (looking for travel companions and shared rides).   
These scenarios make sense.  But as for me, I typically like to sleep the entire time during a flight.  Neck pillow comes out while the last passengers are boarding and I wake up just as the wheels touchdown in my destination city.  I suppose it might be fun to meet up with someone on a flight and get to network a bit before a business convention.  But then again, it might be more fun to catch up on some much needed zzzzz’s. 
What do you think? What do you typically do during long flights?  Would you use social seating?

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