by Erik Sass,
Anyone who has suffered through a five-hour flight next to a cluelessly gregarious fellow passenger (or who conversely wonders why everyone they sit next to is so standoffish) now has an option for procuring a more amenable seatmate, at least if they’re flying on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
The airline has announced a new program that allows passengers to upload information from their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and match themselves up with other ticketholders in seating arrangements. Passengers who opt in to the “Meet and Seat” program choose what kind of information they want to share, and are only able to view information from other passengers who have opted in. The information is presented by overlaying profiles on airplane seating charts. Once the chooser has selected a seatmate, the seatmate receives a message with a link to the chooser’s profile.
According to the New York Times, Meet and Seat is currently only available to passengers booking flights between Amsterdam and New York or between San Francisco and São Paulo, but KLM is planning to expand it to all international flights in the next few months.
While this idea is obviously a neat-o application of social media, there are equally obvious potential drawbacks which could prevent large-scale adoption. For one thing, I’m guessing some female travelers may hesitate to use a service which allows total strangers to sidle up next to them for hours at a time (and as a male traveler I can’t say I find the idea particularly appealing either; better to take your chances with rudeness roulette than find yourself next to someone who’s really excited to meet you). But it could be fun for those outgoing sorts among us — and I suppose introverts could use it to choose someone who seems likely to leave them alone.
KLM has been dabbling with social media for some time now. Back in June of last year I wrote about a publicity campaign, “Tile & Inspire,” which covered the exterior of one of KLM’s new Boeing 777-200 super-jumbo jets with images and inspirational quotes provided by KLM customers. Developed by Tribal DDB Amsterdam, it invited consumers to create an image of a traditional blue Delftware-style tile with their portrait and a personal message. An online interface created by Tribal allowed users to juxtapose their images and quotes on distinctive blue tiles. Participants could also upload the photos through Facebook and Hyves, a Dutch social-media site.