Airline social seating is stay

If the previous post was featuring three great airline blogs, today is the turn of four new services that bring the principles of social shopping to one of the most important aspects of the airline passenger experience: seat allocation.

Once upon a time airline passengers were always asked whether they prefered window or aisle (not many people seem to like the middle seat!), the not so young might even remember when they had the choice of smokers/non-smokers...well, to be fair, many passengers still get the choice, but then came the low cost carriers and the era of unassigned seating, and the pay-to-choose-your-seat model...

And now a bunch of tech startups and a few airlines are starting to bring some zest back to seat by applying the principles of social shopping and leveraging the power of social networks: when on a flight, wouldn't it be better to seat next to those you are more likely to have an affinity with you and have a more enjoyable flight?

Here are four initiatives in this field that have popped up recently, two are driven by specific airlines that seem to have developed it in-house, whether the other two are solutions provided by independent technology startups, and, therefore, not tied to any specific carrier.

1) Planely integrates with other platforms and applications, such as Tripit, Facebook and Linkedin, you disclose where are you flying to and Planely tells you who are you going to be travelling with, you can then connect and try to seat next to those you would like to speak with during the flight.

2) Satisfly is based on the concept of "intelligent seating", when you sign up you are asked a number of details about yourself, part of this can be filed automatically through integration with your existing social networks, additionally Satisfly also asks you for your flight mood (business talk, easy chat, work, relax) and neighbour profile (a number of questions about your preferences about potential seat neighbours, such as age or language spoken), Satisfly also collects information such as meal preferences or frequent flier programmes.

The key element here is that Satisfly works alongside airlines, so once all these information is processed through its own patent-pending technology, the airline is going to be able to assign you a seat neighbour based on your preferences.

3) Malaysia airlines made the headlines a few months ago when it released the first airline Facebook app that allows booking directly on Facebook, without leaving the app. One of the interesting aspects of this app is the ability to see whether  your Facebook friends are on the same flight and select seats accordingly (the system is opt-in only, so no risk of unsolicited encounters if you do not wish to be found)

4) KLM, once more a pioneer in the use of social media, is planning to release a service that looks for similarities and potential compatibilities in the passenger's social media profiles and activity and then allocates seating accordingly. Whereas not many details are available about this new initiative it sounds like an interesting idea, although, obviosuly not for everbody (it will need to be opt-in only), a project worth keeping an eye on!