Social seating takes to the skies

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KLM has officially launched its ‘Meet & Seat’ tool, allowing passengers to pick a seatmate using social media. Photo - KLM.com

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher said: “Man is a social animal. He who lives without society is either a beast or God”. Thus, man is by nature a social animal. Even Aristotle wouldn’t have had any knowledge about the “social media” revolution which the world is witnessing today and is rapidly embracing all spheres of our lives.

“Being social is the new black in terms of the wireless world,” Sandy, a high school student in Dubai, told Arabian Gazette. This concept is not lost to the world. Well let’s take the concept of social media and seating arrangements. How many times have we cringed when we looked at the seating arrangements at a dinner party or a wedding reception?

SOCIAL SEATING

“Social seating is the way of future,” Jonathan Miles, PR Consultant, told Arabian Gazette. “We are becoming totally independent and able to decide whom to sit with, which to me sounds extremely liberating.”

Social seating is a process through which one is able to select the person he/she wants to sit with in a venue or place through the use of social media networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social seating has been around for some time in many spheres of life.

Last August, Ticketmaster rolled out an interactive, Facebook-integrated seat map that allowed ticket buyers to tag their seat locations and see where their friends – or potential friends – will be sitting in a venue.

“We’ve heard stories of seat tagging reuniting fraternity members at college football games and planning of live events much easier,” said Ticketmaster spokesperson Jacqueline Peterson.

The concept of social seating took to the skies with Malaysian Airlines’ ‘MHbuddy’ programme which not only allows passengers the option of booking and checking in for a flight on Facebook, it also offers travellers the option of seeing pictures and seat numbers of Facebook friends on the same flight. Alaska Airlines’ Flying Social programme followed the suit later.

MEET AND SEAT

Now, KLM has also decided to join the bandwagon. On Friday it launched the “Meet & Seat” programme which allows passengers to link their flight reservations with their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, find out who else is on their flight and make a seat selection or other flight-related plans using that information.

“This new service connects passengers and aims to give them a more inspirational journey,” said KLM managing director Erik Varwijk in a statement announcing the new “Meet & Seat” programme.

KLM intends to roll out the programme on its intercontinental flights but for now it is testing as a pilot programme on flights from Amsterdam to San Francisco, New York and São Paulo.

The ‘Meet and Seat’ programme is surprisingly simple. Using KLM’s ‘Manage My Booking’ section, passengers flying on intercontinental flights choose personal information from their Facebook or LinkedIn account to share with other passengers and then link their flight reservations to their profiles. The reservation programme allows passengers to choose a seat between 90 days and 48 hours before departure.

When sharing your details via ‘Meet & Seat’, you can change your seat as often as you like, and arrange for extra comfortable seats in the economy class.

If you choose to remove your profile from ‘Meet & Seat’, you’ll still be able to retain the same seat.

“They can find out whether someone they know will be traveling on the same flight, or discover who else will be attending the same conference in the USA,” the airline said in a statement explaining the programme. “They might arrange to have a coffee before their flight, select adjoining seats or decide to share a taxi afterwards.”

Raymond Kollau, founder of airlinetrends.com, an industry and consumer research agency, ‘liked’ the programme. “The concept makes perfect sense as people like to surround themselves with like-minded persons,” he said. “It will certainly apply to specific demographics, such as generation Y, who are more interested in meeting new people, as well as business travellers en route to a conference. Singles will of course be interested,” the travel analyst explained.

SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT

The social seating trend is not just for the skies.

Airline branding consultant Shashank Nigam noted that independent companies Satisfly and Planely enable passengers to find and book seats next to others with specific interests across airlines. Nigam said some travellers may feel such programmes are “creepy.” He also questioned how quickly frequent travellers would be able to adopt the service.

“Social media seating is an ingenious way to use information, which is already available on the public domain,” Samuel John, a self-employed businessman based in Ajman, told Arabian Gazette. “Its just another step, using information to find friends who are compatible. We use it to find lunch partners so why not use it to find conference buddies or a tour companion in a new city.”

According to Dr. Fathima Shahul, from the Natural Way of Life Centre, Colombo, Sri Lanka, social seating can eliminate a lot of anxiety and stress among passengers. “Many passengers are prone to anxiety and stress when travelling on airplanes. This is mainly caused by the thought of the person sitting next them. This anxiety could be based on personal experiences or even religious criteria. Whatever it may be, selecting seating partner on a long haul flight could make all the difference.”

Social seating concept seems to be a very popular thought among young mothers with children. Dr Fathima added that children have difficulty travelling on airplanes. “They tend to cry, kick and scream as they feel different changes happening to them. They could be suffering from a mild ear ache to something severe.

“Travelling with a toddler is not a fun ride, I know this from experience. Imagine a mother of difficult toddlers travelling alone ends up seated next to an elderly person who does not like children? It sure would be a bitter experience for both parties involved. Instead if the mother could sit next to another family of toddlers of similar age, the strain would be much less,” the Sri Lankan psychologist explained.

However, some people are not warming up to the idea of social seating.

“The whole element of surprise and thrill would be lost,” Samantha Cooper, Marketing Executive from Houston, told Arabian Gazette. “If we decide before hand whom we want to sit with, the magic of flying is somewhat lost to me. I enjoy meeting new people.”

As with anything in the modern world, we have a choice. We could either enrol with the social seating programme or opt out. However, it cannot be said for sure that social seating ensures a pleasant flying experience. It may be our luck that the person we decide to sit next to is having a bad day or that we’ll accidentally meet our soul mate. Whatever happens, social media is here to stay and it is already becoming a part of our life with many social anthropologists suggesting it will soon become our life!

Source: MSNBC

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