Airlines use Facebook to find seatmates
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 09:03
In February, the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) began testing a new program called "Meet and Seat", that allows ticket-holders to sync the details from either their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, in order to select a potential flight seatmate. Aimed at solving the elusive problem of incompatible seatmates, the program designed to further customize the flight experience.
Meet and Seat allows customers to upload specific information from either their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles directly into the airline's reservation system and subsequently share it with fellow passengers.
The customer is then able to scan a virtual map of the plane, click on their preferred seat and see details about their seatmate. If the person seems desirable, the selection can be made and taken into consideration during seating.
Social media has inevitably taken over many aspects of day-to-day life, from the professional world to social lives. However airlines and other forms of transportation have long been lagging behind. KLM and other competitors are hoping that the utilization of social media can launch effectively make up for any shortcoming in the past. KLM is betting that many passengers would be willing to share their profiles in exchange, say, for a chance to meet someone with a common interest or who might be going to the same event.
This is not a completely original concept. Airlines have tried, unsuccessfully, to implement this before, by using their own database to no avail. For example, airlines like Air France and Virgin Atlantic have attempted albeit unsuccessfully to build "walled" networks stemming from their frequent flier memberships. However, with frequent flier's only being limited to a select number of people, its tangible use is questionable. Facebook, on the other hand, has a whopping 500 million active users, many of whom KLM is counting on to use their new service. Furthermore customers are more likely to use more familiar social media outlets as opposed to the airlines archaic databases.
Erik Varwijk, KLM's managing director recently said in a statement that the airline is taking "social networking a step forward" to give passengers "a more inspirational journey."
The forward thinking airline is operating under the ideology that the implementation of social media into the airline stratosphere is potentially a great way to connect travelers and improve the flight experience on the whole. For instance, it can potentially be a great way to connect travelers who may be heading to the same convention or conference before they actually get there. However, KLM has even taken it a step further, encouraging seatmates to meet before the flight for coffee in the terminal or perhaps even sharing a taxi at their new destination. Though, that may be a case of too much too soon.
Despite this, the advent of using social media in travel is spreading. Malaysia Airlines created a platform entitled MHBuddy in 2011. The application allowed users who book and also check-in using their Facebook page to see whether or not their friends would be on the same flight or perhaps in the same city. It also takes a similar approach to KLM but more private, allowing Facebook friends to sit in select seats together.
Other applications have approached it differently. In Hong Kong, some users are allowed to not only submit basic profile information, but as well as their flight "moods or preferences" — whether they would prefer to talk, shop or chat casually — and other details like languages spoken and preferences about potential seat mates. All of which culminates in a better overall flight experience.