Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Poke! I Choose You to Be My Seatmate.

Airlines, you’ve gone and done it again.

First it was the baggage fees, and charging for legroom. Then it was denying us our Words with Friends. Now, the New York Times reports, it’s bringing Facebook and LinkedIn to the seat-selection process, so you can gather more information on customers … I mean, pair up fliers with similar interests.

Soon enough, we’ll hear people’s no-longer-serendipitous tales of purposely meeting their soul mate, or maybe selling their company to the passenger in seat 24E.

I’ve got one word for you, airlines, or really, one word that’s used twice to create another single word: GoGo. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that Internet broadband access became an in-flight possibility, allowing us to bury our heads in laptop screens, plow through work while 30,000 feet above the ground, and effectively avoid human interaction? Even the subject at the top of the Times story, Jeff Jarvis, grumbles that he usually has work to do.

And now, you want us to talk to people while we fly? (How does one do that, anyway?)

In case you missed the story, KLM Airlines and others have recently integrated aspects of social media with customer profiles, allowing prospective passengers to share personal information and choose seat buddies based on their profiles.

Sharing the social info is completely optional, and if a customer is uncomfortable with the person who has chosen to sit next to him or her, the seat can be changed up until two days before the flight.

As the story points out, this is likely to appeal to business travelers who are interested in real-life networking, not just social networking.

On one hand, providing more personal info to airlines could help them tailor the flight experience to suit fliers’ preferences, going beyond just the standard meal selection.

And one of the services mentioned, Hong Kong-based Satisfly, lets fliers indicate their preferred level of chattiness during a flight. So the tired mom might not get the talk-shop guy, and maybe the fearful flier won’t get paired with another white-knuckler. (In the videogaming world, I’m told, multiplayer gamers find this kind of feature to be invaluable when they create profiles, so jabberers and silent Halo-ers can peacefully coexist.)

But allowing fliers to handpick their seatmates based on social profiling could also have its pitfalls. As Jarvis aptly says, “Pity the poor venture capitalist who gets seated with the start-up guy who talks his ear off for four hours.”

Which might present another opportunity for airlines: Charge extra for high-tech noise-canceling headphones …

Readers, what do you think? Would you use a social networks to choose a seatmate on a flight, or opt not to share your profile?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work