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Friends in High Places

Social media sites have taken off and the airline industry has noticed. They are beginning to see the benefit of using these sites to make flying the friendly skies even friendlier. Wouldn’t an in-flight experience be more pleasant if you could be assured that you and your seatmate would hit it off? Several airlines seem to think it would be, so they’re adding features that allow passengers who are flying solo to choose their seatmates. These lone travelers can opt to share information from their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to create a passenger profile. When other unaccompanied passengers book their flights, they have access to the available profiles and can choose a seatmate with whom they feel most compatible. The airlines claim that using this service allows travelers to get potential new friendships off to a flying start. Of course, there is always the off-chance that a person whose profile is not chosen may feel rejected. If childhood memories of being picked last in gym class or standing all alone at a school dance come flooding back, it could trigger mental instability. This disgruntled passenger may board the plane and walk down the aisle yelling “I would have been a great seatmate, but none of you wanted me!”

While there is not currently a charge for using this social media feature to select a seatmate, I’m sure it is only a matter of time before the fee happy airlines realize the potential lucrative benefits of enlisting the assistance of other websites’ services. Since the social media profile option is only available to travelers flying stag, airlines could offer additional services to travelers who are not in a committed relationship, but would like to be. Interested passengers could pay a matchmaking fee then submit a compatibility questionnaire to the airlines who would work in conjunction with eHarmony and match.com to find not just a seatmate, but maybe even a soul mate. It gives entirely new meaning to the old cliché: love is in the air.

Maybe passengers would be willing to pay a premium to sit with people with whom they have something in common. Airlines could link passengers’ passport photographs to RateMyFace.com. Members of this website rate the overall appearance of a person based on an uploaded picture. Granted, a passport photo is not necessarily a person’s best photograph, but it is the one airlines have access to. Passengers would be rated on a scale of 1 through 10: 1 being the most unattractive and 10 being a smokin’ hottie. Once they have all been rated, the airline can group passengers according to categories and a fee structure could be implemented. People rated an 8 through 10 would pay the most for the opportunity to sit amongst only the beautiful people. A moderate fee would be charged to the moderately attractive people ranked in the 5 through 7 range. The unfortunate people deemed a 4 or lower would sit together, at no charge, since no one would want to sit next to them anyway. Additional moneymaking opportunities could come from passengers who wish to be crossovers. For instance, if a passenger who has been rated a 5 wants to sit with a passenger who has been rated an 8, there would be a surcharge.

Another option is for airlines to employ some of the strategies used in speed dating. Interested single passengers could be seated in one section of the plane. Every 30 minutes during the flight the captain could turn off the fasten seatbelt sign which would signal the flight attendants to cheerily announce, “You are free to move about the cabin.” On this cue, passengers would rotate to a different seat before the captain turns the fasten seat belt sign back on. Instead of sitting with just a single seatmate for the duration of a flight, passengers would have the opportunity to circulate around the cabin meeting as many people as possible. Airlines could make money by having a cover charge which would include an open bar with those tiny bottles of liquor.

People looking for a love connection are not the only source of untapped profit for airlines. Let’s not forget the money that could be made from the solo business travelers. Airlines could link passenger profiles with the Internal Revenue Service. Tax information could be used to group passengers according to their adjusted gross incomes. The exorbitantly high ticket prices of first class already weed out the riff-raff, but within first class there should still be a hierarchy.

Even if someone is not looking for love or a new business partner, he or she still has in-flight preferences. Some passengers opt for a window seat while others favor the aisle. There are passengers who would rather sit back, relax and experience the flight in companionable silence while there are others who prefer to chat for the duration of the flight. Now there are companies that will collect passengers’ preferences and store them in a database. Passengers registered with this service provide a profile as well as information about how much they like to chat, what languages they speak and preferred topics of conversation. Once this data is compiled, these companies try to match suitable flight buddies from other passengers on that same flight who have also registered their data with this service.

Using social media is a great way to meet people without all the hassle of actually speaking to them. Pre-selecting a seatmate with whom you have something in common eliminates the need to use those awkward face to face social skills required to engage in conversation with someone you don’t know anything about. After all, how can we be expected to be friendly and sociable towards someone we’ve never met before?

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

57 responses »

  1. Reblogged this on Sprites Cubed and commented:
    This is such a great post I have no choice but to reblog it. In fact, it is so mandatory I share this I must giggle nonstop while I try to figure out how reblogging actually works. Yes, I admit it, I’m pretty much a WordPress virgin. You think the airlines could sit me with some WordPress authorities? 😀

    Reply
  2. HIL-ARIOUS! Your wit never ceases to amaze me Paprika 😉

    Reply
  3. Pingback: High Anxiety « Good Humored

  4. I love these ideas. I wonder if you can expand this to family holidays, especially seating arrangements where in-laws are involved.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I’m sure these ideas have many useful applications and can easily be adapted for family gatherings. I suppose there is some way to link Facebook up to the guest list for the occasion. Then, other invitees could log on, read profiles and choose who they would like to sit next to. Just think of the time it would save planning out seating charts. Instead of there being a “kids” table at a family function, there could be a “misfits” table – all the people that were leftover that no one wanted to sit with.

      Reply
  5. Thank goodness I already have a seatmate – my husband. But I do love the serendipity of sitting next to some random person. We’ve wound up having some interesting conversations with those seated in the same aisle. Looking forward to your post when you “describe the most amusing seatmate I’ve ever had to sit next to.” I can only imagine … and chuckle at the thought.

    Reply
    • Oregano and I usually sit together and for that I am most grateful, but there is always someone sharing the row with us. Like you, I enjoy the randomness of meeting the person who is sitting with us. Makes things just a bit more interesting.

      I hope my next post lives up to the images you’ve created that are making you chuckle.

      Reply
  6. What a great idea. Years ago, I was both single and traveling quite a bit for my job. Flying on your program would be just like multi-tasking.

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  7. If I ever participated in speed dating, this would be the worst possible way to do it. Can you imagine the awkwardness when you meet a complete freak? There would be no escape!

    I would love to be able to sit next to a non-chatter though. That would be as good as first class.

    Reply
    • Isn’t it always awkward when you meet a complete freak regardless of the time limit?

      Having a non-chatter next to you might be as good as first class, but I hear they serve warm cookies up there.

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  8. Hilarious post…and a little creepy. But hey, this is definitely Fresh Pressed quality!

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  9. Flying! I always felt lonely, With the social system fully implemented, I am hoping someone like me will be so kind and sit next to me.I am sure we will have a lot of fun.

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  10. Is this serious? Would they also offer in flight counseling and mediation for those who meet, fall in love and break up, all on the same flight?

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  11. It’s such an innovative and awesome idea!!! Hats off to whoever came up with it. And yes, the airlines seem to be on the way to making a hell lot of money! But I’d prefer having a random seatmate, about whom I know nothing… I kinda like the idea of initiating a conversation, finding common ground, getting to know the person and developing a friendship rather than choosing someone who I already know is similar to me. 🙂 I guess I’m too in love with the serendipity and randomness in life.

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    • I can see why some people would like this type of a program and I really do think it is only a matter of time until airlines will start charging for this service. I totally agree with you, though. I enjoy the serendipty and randomness of meeting someone new and chatting with them. Sometimes the person is great and sometimes the person is a clunker with whom I have nothing in common. Either way it’s still interesting. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I describe the most amusing seatmate I’ve ever had to sit next to.

      Reply
  12. I must be so out of it because I have never heard of this! But you make it sound so sensible. I love it! I could see Liz Lemon walking down the aisle of the plane, “I would have been a great seatmate, but none of you wanted me!”

    Reply
    • Apparently a few smaller airlines in other countries have been trying this “meet and seat” program for a while, but KLM (the Dutch airline) is one of the first larger airlines to adopt this type of program. They are trying it with just a few routes to see how it goes.

      You’re not allowed to reject a seatmate who chooses you once you’ve been notified, but you are free to change your seat as many times as you wish prior to the flight. I have visions of a persistent/stalker seatmate continually checking the seating charting, noticing that I’ve moved and then picking the seat next to me again. Then I move. Then he or she finds me… social aversion musical chairs.

      Reply
  13. Holy cow, flying the friendly skies just got friendlier. Did you say this in your post? I have a tendency to read something someone just wrote and then restate it verbatim like I just made it up.

    Have you read the David Sedaris (love him) essay about his flying next to a woman who wants him to switch seats so she can sit next to her husband? A must read.

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  14. Maybe you could present yourself in such a vile and disgusting manner that no one would want to sit next to you and you then would have more space to yourself…such sayin’

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    • I have been seated next to quite a few people who have taken that approach and, believe me, it did not get them a seat to themselves. It was just torture for everyone with in visual, audio and olfactory distance.

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  15. That’s actually pretty cool! I would love to know a person, before spending more than 12 hours with them, as opposed to having a crying toddler annoy the hell out of me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love kids and they are cute and everything but hearing them cry incessantly isn’t really pleasant.

    Social media is amazing!

    Reply
    • Given my choice I would definitely pick a seatmate that wasn’t going to cry and bounce around in the seat, regardless of the age of that seatmate.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Reply
  16. It’s just getting way too complicated to travel by air!! What a pleasure to just get in the car and go!!

    Reply
  17. Uncle Sea Salt

    Having just flown to W. Palm Beach from Tucson where I was paired with the most obnoxious, slightly drunk Texan, I would probably not be the best demographic for this new revenue source. As a matter of fact, if I actually told the truth about myself, I’d probably wind up in baggage.

    Reply
  18. There’s another category too often overlooked: The Social Climbers.

    Ronnie

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  19. Hey Paprika, you made it onto the Word Press Humor page. I was just commenting to Jonesingafter40 who couldn’t see the tabs. I said that I had always thought the tab was defective because I never see anyone on there that I consider funny.

    That changed — this post was up there. I am not sure if congratulations is in order, but I will say that FINALLY the Word Press folks are developing a sense of humor!

    Reply
  20. Don’ t forget the people who are traveling alone but can claim to their significant other that they just happened to sit next to ” the new love of their life” when they ask for a divorce. I see the lawyers lined up now!

    Reply

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