KLM recently announced a new social networking service that aims to give passengers more information about the person who’s sitting next to them. When you book a KLM flight now, you can choose to see who you’re sitting next to by viewing that person’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile page. That’s right, you can see whether or not the person you are going to sit next to on that long flight is worth talking to. I can think of all kinds of reasons why this is a bad idea. On the other hand, I can think of many reasons why this would be an advantageous service for some people.
While KLM is trying to get in on the social media madness, some people are not thrilled about this new offering from the airline. After all, if you happen to be someone who people want to sit next to, you may just find yourself thoroughly annoyed by your fellow passenger for hours on end. Now, there’s a way to sell more flight tickets! Interesting in the KLM service? Here’s how it all goes down.
The KLM Theory
There’s lots of excitement and mixed emotions coming from KLM passengers today. Even though the Facebook and LinkedIn flight service isn’t available yet (sometime next year), one has to wonder if this impending service is legal or ethical. Consider the traveling business person who wants to connect while in-flight with someone influential. That (let’s call him “annoying”) business person could choose someone important within a specific industry by looking at potential seat mate passengers. Of course, this could be view as an opportunity by many, but, for others, it would be a mere annoyance.
Then again, how many times have you been stuck next to someone very large or a screaming child? If you are not into any of these things, you can skip the traveling mom or try to find out what someone looks like before you board that flight. Single people could also view this new selection tool as a way to find mates. Think about it: if you are a single guy and you see that a cute girl will be on your flight, would you be inclined to choose a seat next to her? The possibilities here are endless, but there’s one thing that KLM might not have thought about.
Airlines aren’t allowed to give out passenger information, but here’s the loophole: if an airline simply tells you who could be on the flight and you look up that information, they aren’t actually giving away any important details (you find out that information on your own).
The other privacy angle here is that many social networks (like LinkedIn and Facebook) have stringent privacy options that users can set up. So, you might be able to see someone’s distant profile picture, but you may not be able to find out much about that person. It’s also worth pointing out that profile pictures often lie (beware single people looking for a mate on a flight!).
The KLM social networking program is an interesting one, to say the least. It’s also a program worth watching if you intend to board a KLM flight.