Social Seating for Like-Minded Passengers

Aiplane aisle seat 2

No more boring flights. That’s what they say, now that you can select a seatmate who thinks like you do, or at least wants to listen. South African Airways is onboard. It makes flying seem like a grand social adventure.

The airline launched an online and mobile check-in feature so you can select a seatmate with similar interests and/or backgrounds, like old money and good breeding.

South African Airways’ Social check-in “Meet and Seat” allows us to peruse open seats and see if there’s anybody interesting in the neighborhood by scanning Facebook details. (College picture toking on a bong, perhaps, if you’re heading to Colorado or Amsterdam?) Yeah, you can get the skinny on who’s on the flight, and they can check you out.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Malaysia Airlines got into social seating back in 2012. And Delta Air Lines have something called Innovation Class, where passengers apply via LinkedIn to sit next to titans of industry and pick their brains.

Who wants to be tagged a flying wallflower? Or sit next to someone who is crushingly dull? Life is staggeringly unpredictable; flying doesn’t have to be.

With SAA you simply check in online, share your Facebook data and select your seat based on who’s available. Maybe there’s somebody going to the same event, or shares your fascination with scatology. It’s kind of like online dating, except you can’t throw a glass of wine in his face and walk out until the plane lands.

Malaysia Airlines has MHBuddy, an app that checks you in via the carrier’s Facebook page to see if you if any of the 2,000 “friends” you’ve never met are onboard. Maybe you can sit together and actually meet. (And then de-friend.)

Air France, Virgin Atlantic and other airlines have created social networks from frequent flier memberships. And a Hong Kong network called Satisfly tags your flight “mood,” indicating whether you want to talk or read or stay glued to the screen for seat assignment purposes.

The Tarmac’s View: Years ago, I wrote a university thesis on concentrations of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in white wistar rats that I’d put through training regiments on a mini-treadmill. (My design, but that’s a story for the return flight.) I had sprinters, marathoners and cage potatoes. As you know, LDH plays a role in resynthesizing lactic acid, the demon that makes our muscles scream during intense exercise. Golly, I haven’t thought about that for years. Now it’s all coming back. Anyone want to sit by me on a 13-hour flight to Joburg while I review the rat data?


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