Plane kiss

Here’s a well-meaning travel innovation that could be warped and abused by creeps:

In 2012, Dutch airline KLM will you let you select your seatmate by their Facebook profile.

Yep, instead of letting Fate decide if your seatmate will be a chatty, filthy hog of a mama’s boy, you can pick your perfect seatmate by gazing at their Facebook and Linkedin profiles.

KLM says you can use their new “meat and seat” service for networking or to find passengers with similar interests. It’s scheduled to launch sometime next year and will be available to everybody (not just us charming, dashing, attractive people). But if you’d prefer to battle for the seat rest with a total stranger, you can opt out and take your chances.

As with all technological innovations, this Facebook app will no doubt lead to both the best and worst in human behaviour.

It could be a marvelous invention that advances the human race by eliminating our fear of the unknown. Think of the new friendships, business partnerships, and romances this will spark. According to the International Business Times, a recent poll found that 45% of respondents had flirted during a flight, 1/3 met up with a fellow traveler after a flight, and 8% said that encounter led to a relationship.

KLM’s plan means you can spark a warm friendship before you even get to the airport. And isn’t the whole point of travel to forge connections with utter strangers so they can save your life if the plane plunges into the Atlantic and there’s only one spot left on the life raft?

Currently, a company called Planely offers a similar service that lets you pick a travel mate, meet for coffees at the airport, and split the cost of a cab at your destination. And Malaysia Airlines introduced a similar option, but in that case, the Facebook friends must already know each other.

KLM’s service is much more ambitious. By the time you’re at the ticket gate, you can already have met your seatmate online, perved their photos to see if they’re married or not, find out exactly where they live, decided if they look 100% happy in their wedding photos, discovered if they’re a single mother of a screaming a baby, if they can spell or correctly use ‘your’ vs. ‘you’re’, their religious/cult affiliation, their inspiring political beliefs, their favourite Sunday night TV shows, whether they love posting little hearts in their updates, and if they think they can cure cancer by posting an optimistic status update for an hour.

You can start exchanging flirty messages before the big day of your flight. And if your pre-flight banter goes well, by the time you board your plane, it could feel like you’ve already had your first & second dates, and now you’re advancing to the make-or-break third date up in the sky.

Imagine how much easier it will be to have sex with a stranger on a KLM flight [Note: if you can’t imagine this, the news analysts at Next Media Animation have created a video that imagines it for you). Given how hard it can be for single people to meet in public, KLM’s new app could be a godsend.

On the downside, if a fellow traveller likes how you look on Facebook, they can start annoying you with Farmville updates and anti-government rants before you even leave for the airport. And how far will passengers take this…could this well-meaning service lead to profiling? Will people avoid sitting next to shifty-looking people or people from a different culture? Will redheads face discrimination? What about people with freakishly large nostrils or whose beady eyes are disgustingly close to each other?

KLM’s Facebook app could make your ordinary London to L.A. flight hellaciously awkward. What if someone wants to sit beside you, but you reject them because you’d rather read a book or you don’t like the duck face they make in their office party pics? That stranger could take this rejection personally, vow revenge, pick a seat across the aisle from you, and glare at you all the way to California.

Worse, what if you turn them down and you choose a cuter seatmate instead? This could cause your would-be suitor to get so jealous, they follow you out of the terminal, tell a taxi driver to follow your cab to your Santa Monica hotel, where they send dozens of pizzas to your room, harass the front desk with phony 911 calls about the screaming coming from your room, then hack into your Facebook account and use your identity to send vicious messages to your spouse, boss, family, and friends, leaving you broke, divorced, lonely, and homeless?

That would kinda suck. Given that scenario, I’d rather take the train. At least they have a bar car where you can randomly befriend, adore, or gently reject strangers the pure way: in person, right to their face.

How about you? Would you like to pick your seatmate from a Facebook profile?

— Ken Hegan

Bing: how to flirt on planes

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