Social networking is being taken to a whole new height, quite literally, by two airlines – KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. Passengers can pick who to sit next to by viewing other passengers’ social network profiles or photos before the flight on KLM’s ‘Meet & Seat’ and Malaysia Airlines’ ‘MHBuddy’ programmes.
According to the New York Times, two start-ups, the Danish company Planely and Hong Kong-based Satisfy, also have software that matches passengers based on their social-networking profiles and other data they may submit.
These developments have been welcomed by some as a brilliant way to make new friends, network, or even find a potential partner. However, others are concerned and view it as a creepy concept, with the potential to be stalked.
“Very weird,” writes Nora Barry Byrne on KLM’s Facebook page. “I totally vote on the creepy. Is the default to opt in or opt out? If I was travelling with my kids/teens or travelling on my own — all I think of is the creeps that would use this to stalk.”
KLM’s Meet & Seat is voluntary and is only available on flights between Amsterdam and Atlanta, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Houston, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Nairobi, New York, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Sao Paulo or Toronto. Passengers who opt in will have from 90 days to 48 hours before departure to access the ‘Manage my Booking’ page, which will allow them to share their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles with the other passengers, and see the seating choices on a map. It isn’t an all or nothing approach either however, as they can choose which information to share and edit their profile photo also.
“Dozens of passengers have already shared their profile during the first few days,” Ellen van Ginkel, a KLM spokeswoman told USA Today.
Malaysia Airlines’ MHbuddy is a Facebook application which allows passengers to view the photos and seat selections of any of their Facebook friends on the flight and can choose seats next to them, if available.