Have you ever been the first to take your seat in a given row and wondered who your potential seatmate will be? Have you sat their anxiously watching each passenger board, hoping and praying that you would get someone cool, attractive, funny, etc. sitting next to you? Have you ever worried that you would get a smelly, annoying, mean seatmate? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, then you will probably appreciate a new program that a few international airlines have adopted.
The programs let passengers share their social-networking profiles or photos and pick seatmates prior to the flight. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Malaysia Airlines both now offer "social seating" on select flights.
KLM's Meet & Seat program is available on flights between Amsterdam and New York, and San Francisco and Sao Paulo. It is completely voluntary--which should be nice for everyone who is concerned about privacy and potential stalkers. Passengers can select the option to share their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles with other passengers, and they can edit their profile and photo so they only share the information they want. A seating map displays seat choices and profiles of other passengers who are participating in the program. Travelers can contact them before the flight and choose to sit next to them if the seat is open. If a flier finds out ahead of takeoff that they are seated next to someone they do not want to be next to, they can change their sear and even withdraw their profile. All profiles are deleted after the flight.
Malaysia Airlines' MHbuddy is a Facebook application. Travelers book their flights using the app, and as they check in, they can view pictures and seat selections of any of their Facebook friends on the flight and can choose seats next to them. MHbuddy also informs passengers if any of their Facebook friends are planning on traveling to the destination in case they want to meet up while there.
Some people see this initiative as the ultimate social-networking dream, while others see it as a little creepy, and still others are very concerned about privacy.
So far, no U.S. airlines have made plans to offer social seating, though a couple have said they looked into it.
There are certainly some positives to the idea, but I feel it could cause some real problems down the road. There is always the potential for stalking, and having too much access to a person's personal information, as well as their travel itinerary, can pose a security issue. And then their's the whole social dynamic of it. What if you decide you want to sit next to someone, so you reserve that open seat; then a couple days later, you go back on and find that person has moved. What then? Was it you? Did they look at your picture and decide they didn't want you as a seatmate? Did they find someone better to sit next to? What a blow to your self-confidence. A move like that can be crippling to a person's self worth. Would you really want to go through something like that?
So, what are your thoughts, readers? Do you think social seating is a good idea or a step in the wrong direction?