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?