Social-Seating = Higher Revenue?
KLM and Malaysia Airlines will be one of the first few major airlines to incorporate a "social-seating" program. KLM's "Meet and Seat" and Malaysia Airline's "MHBuddy" Facebook App will allow passengers to share their Linkedin or Facebook profile from 90 days to 48 hours before their flight and sit next to someone with similar interests. Passengers can choose the information they wish to share from their profile or even remove their profile from the seat map. However, this service is only available to passengers with confirmed tickets. Once a passengers has chosen to share their profile information, they can then view other profiles in the seat map. After a seat is chosen, a message will be sent to the passenger in the next seat informing them about the selection. Planely (Denmark) and Satisfly (Hong-Kong) already have a program that matches flyers with potential conversation partners. Although JetBlue has not ruled out the social-seating program, they are somewhat "conscious of some of the privacy concerns that it might raise." Other American airlines are pursuing similar plans. I guess once passengers come to accept the social-seating move by the airlines, more carriers will adopt this program. In the end, we are all "social beings."
Having an seatmate that is annoying is totally different from having a seatmate that has shadowed you through Facebook and thinks you are amusing. In KLM's service there is no "accept" or "reject" option, so you will be forced to change your seat. The Consumerist Blog is stating that the airline is turning the airplane into a high school cafeteria. Before this concept has even taken off it is already causing an uproar. Passengers should comprehend that it is not mandatory to share or have a Facebook/Linkedin profile to fly, and if they do not wish to participate in this program, they can always opt out, even in the last minute. With some LCCs charging to choose a seat before the flight, the social-seating program could be used as another revenue flow for the airlines.
Airlines could offer the social-seating program for free when they launch it to study the number of passengers that are using the program. If those numbers rise, airlines could charge extra for the passengers that wish to use the social-seating program similar to the way they charge passengers to choose their seat. For example, if a passenger pays $5 to choose their seat, they could pay $8 to use the social-seating program while choosing their seat. Passengers could also use the frequent flier miles to use the social-seating program. This would help the airlines offset the cost to setup the social-seating program by making only the users of the program pay for it. If the social-seating program turns out to be a success for airlines, it could become profitable. Soon, other modes of transport such as cruise ships and trains will implement similar programs if they aren't doing so already.