How many of you have made a great contact on a airline trip through the happenstance of the neighbor sitting in the seat next to you? Well, the wizards of new social applications would like to reduce the randomness of this encounter and let you reach out to select your travel partner. Is this an icky invasion of privacy or something that might actually be cool?
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, part of KLM Air France, recently announced “Meet & Seat.” They plan on launching this service next year, but it is still in the development phase. The tool will work with Facebook and Linkedin, but not Twitter. You will be able to opt-in to the program. Not many other details are available at this time.
Yet, this announcement made me wonder if this innovation (excuse the pun) could take flight. I know for many, air travel is the last refuge of quiet…uninterrupted by the constant din of texting, iphones, messaging, Twitter feeds, Linkedin messages, and Facebook follows. But, I can also see the attraction of being able to avoid sitting next to the over-weight, foul breathed, real estate agent hoping to get you to invest in a time share in Panama. What if you select someone that might be from your alma mater or share your interest in fly fishing? Might we like to have the surprise that someone from a key account of yours will be sharing a flight with you? Would we like to know that the person who won’t return any of your calls happens to be on a transatlantic flight with you?
Yes, there are some really interesting things that could make the Meet & Seat option appealing. I guess the hard part would be what happens when the person that reached out to you turns out to be a dud, or worse yet obnoxious and over-bearing. Now, you are stuck with them for six hours. But, then we might need the added functionality of “Swap & Ditch” that allows you to put out a plea to swap seats while in flight.
In all seriousness, stranger things have found their niche. I would most be concerned about social flying degenerating into a celestial Match.com. Imagine that single guy checking you out pre-flight and then making his move hoping to score in the mile high club. I think we just entered the “icky” zone.
In the end, the market always decides. People either will enjoy the novelty of this approach and find a benefit from choosing their seat mates, or (again forgive my pun) it will go down in flames. I applaud KLM for pushing the bounds of social and developing an offering that is so well aligned with their product. It will be interesting to see what flyers want. But as Bette Davis famously quipped “fasten your seat belts, it is going to be a bumpy ride.”