By Chris McNamara, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:42 PM EST, November 20, 2012
For those travelers who have been stuck in an unwanted conversation with a chatty seatmate on a long flight, the thought of socializing aboard airplanes likely is abhorrent. But the Dutch airline KLM, for one, believes that some passengers seek more socializing while traveling.
KLM (klm.com) this year launched Meet & Seat, a service that enables business-class passengers to see the LinkedIn and Facebook profiles of fellow passengers and select their seats accordingly. In short, you can choose to rub shoulders with those who might be good for business.
Passengers who opt in to this service share their social media bios and detail their profession, languages, personal interests and the purpose of their trip. They then view a map of the plane and scan bios of fellow fliers to select their spot.
"With Meet & Seat, KLM takes social networking a step forward," said Erik Varwijk of KLM, who said about 10,000 people have used the service. "Meet & Seat connects passengers and aims to give them a more inspirational journey."
That's a lofty goal.
"Passengers, whether in planes, airports or airline clubs, have much in common, traveling for business or leisure and visiting another city or returning home," said Jean Medina, spokeswoman for trade group Airlines for America.
"As such, it's not unusual for them to make professional or personal connections with fellow travelers."
Passengers flying via New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are among the most frequent users of the program, which Malaysia Airlines recently instituted as well.
But is this offering intrusive? Is it obnoxious?
Some passengers likely would say yes. But those who would rather network than nap on flights will find it a handy tool. Importers can sit next to exporters. Sellers can seek out buyers. And those with a fear of flying can cozy up next to psychiatrists.
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