Georgina Guedes

Checking out who checks in

2012-04-05 12:00

Georgina Guedes

Being of small physique, I know only too well the agony of being picked last for sports teams by my schoolmates in that excruciating process that only sadistic PT instructors could come up with.

So when I first heard of KLM launching an app called Seat and Meet that allows users to select whom they sit next to on flights based on their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, as well as other inputs like whether or not they are “talkers”, I felt that this could add a whole new level of unwelcome tension to flying.

I imagine the process would be opt-in, which means that if you want to fly incognito you still can. However, as soon as there are tools that allow you to choose your too-close-for-comfort companion, you’re damn well going to jump at the chance to use them, aren’t you?

We all know the agony of anticipation as a lumbering, plus-size rugby player type makes his way up the narrow aisle. “Please, please, please don’t let him be headed for seat 15B, please!”

Relief or sinking resignation bordering on panic follow in short order. But as much as I would prefer to sit next to a quiet, intelligent, attractive, extremely underweight person of either gender, (or, you know, George Clooney) I feel like it should be luck of the draw, to avoid turning intercontinental flights into some bizarre popularity contest at best or dating game at worst.

It just seems to open up so much opportunity for exploitation: I use the app to avoid having to share the armrest with a haunch of beef. I select someone of moderate attractiveness who claims not to be a talker. Sadly, the guy turns out to have lied about his garrulous intentions and quite fancies a bit of a chat with me – after all, I chose him...

Presumably KLM have put some thought into the development of the app and its permissions and settings, but I still think that it raises all kinds of tricky ethical questions, and opens up those who might already suffer from the prejudice of others to even more pointed ostracism.

Presumably, someone has to be seated first. Obviously, the later you seat yourself, the more chance you have of checking out your fellow checkers-in, but you are less likely to get a coveted window seat, so I guess KLM is hoping for natural impulses to prevent havoc being wrought with timeous boarding procedures.

After all, no matter who I might end up sitting next to, I’d still rather get to my destination on time.

However Seat and Meet might work in theory and practice, it will be interesting to watch airline passengers making use of this new technology – but KLM had better brace itself for a whole new wave of chancers for the Mile High Club.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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