Social creative: KLM makes the skies a more social place
Flying’s a gamble. As you buckle up you glance at the empty seat next to you and cautiously eye other boarding passengers. Will it be that amply-sized businessman? The woman with the screaming baby? The awkward teenager with the raging cold and noisy earphones? Your fate for the next several hours is out of your hands – left to the (often malevolent) Gods of seating allocation.
Until now, that is. Dutch airline KLM has introduced a helpful new service – ‘Meet and Seat’ – that allows passengers to share information from their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles with other flyers, and thereby choose a seatmate accordingly. Users can edit their profile and photo, and have from 90 days to 48 hours before departure to choose a flying friend (or find a better one – ouch).
Airlines have been trying to make flying a more social experience for a while now. Back in 2007 Virgin introduced a built-in instant messaging service, but as Forbes’ Kashmir Hill notes, “Every time I fly Virgin, I check the in-flight chat and it’s deserted. It’s less popular than the seats that don’t recline situated right next to the bathrooms.” Will Meet and Seat fare better? According to KLM spokeswoman Ellen van Ginkel, “dozens” of passengers shared their info during the scheme’s first few days, with an even spread between routes, classes, gender and Facebook/LinkedIn.
A similar programme – ‘MHBuddy’ – from Malaysia Airlines is also proving popular, so will this social element form the future of flying? Perhaps. But of course the ol’ privacy issue has a lot of naysayers up in arms: while users’ profiles are deleted after the flight there’s nothing to stop passengers having a good nosey beforehand and using the information in more dubious ways. The promotional video shows two businessmen enjoying a drink and some chit chat, but what about questionable fellas hitting on lone females, or pushy salesmen trapping flyers in an unwanted pitch?
Of course, it’s not compulsory, so those opting in are likely to do so with the understanding that a fuss-free flight is not guaranteed. And not every airline is likely to pursue this social thinking, either. Air New Zealand takes the polar opposite stance and lets passengers pay for an empty seat next to them. Which would you prefer?