One Airline’s Version of Social Media: Stop … I Want to Get Off

By Robert Mark on November 24th, 2008

Most people will tell you I’m a fairly gregarious person. Even a few might tell you I talk way too much. I’m the guy that wants to introduce everyone to everyone else. But there is one place I absolutely clam up and simply shy away from contact with the outside world – when I’m spending a few hours in the back of an airliner. I really enjoy my privacy. Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but I get kind of nutty when people try to infringe on my personal space on an airplane – all 10 sq. ft. of it – another reason I’m so relentlessly opposed to any airline approving the use of cell phones on board an airplane. Maybe it’s the close quarters or simply the opportunity to sit back for an hour or two and not respond to my iPhone or Twitter accounts.

Now comes word that one airline and I’m sure others, since they typically operate like a herd of sheep, are enthusiastically launching into the social media world with – or would this be against – passengers. facebook Air France-KLM last week announced what I think is a simply terrible idea to create a social network and web site to alert other flyers about the people they’ll be cooped up with for a few hours, a post that will include their name and a link to their personal profile. They’re hoping this linkup will encourage people to share travel tips, entertainment recommendations and restaurant ideas. I hate this idea, despite being a Web 2.0/3.0 aficionado.

I was stuck next to an old couple on a flight a few years ago who decided that me wearing my headphones listening to music wasn’t going to stand in the way of their taking the opportunity to ask whether I’d been saved or not. This fellow pulled aside one of my headphones to see if he could talk, or preach, something I rated as dumb as talking about your preference of McCain over Obama or vice versa during a job interview. It’s just plain stupid. I’m still trying to figure out what part of “No thanks … please?” this guy didn’t understand. Then there was the woman who simply had to tell me how flying reminded her of a life-threatening anxiety disorder that she had to spend almost 45 minutes explaining to me. I just want to read my book … please.

OK, I’m Old

The PR people at Air France-KLM say the new network is a response to the demand of young people – that’s anyone younger than me I think – to see if other subscribers are on the flight. “There will of course be some – like ME – who can imagine nothing worse than meeting other travelers, especially on a flight where you could be next to someone for hours, while others will embrace it as a networking tool.” Great. Just what I want to do for hours on end. Network with someone. Air France-KLM thinks they will have 300,000 users by the end of 2009.

On a flight where my seat is assigned, I’m assuming it will be clear to all exactly where they can bother – I mean find me. So again, Southwest Airlines’ random seating saves the day once again. And I’m going to move around during flight too, just in case.

So please Southwest … you know I think emerging media is a fantastic idea. But I want to control it … please.

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9 Responses to “One Airline’s Version of Social Media: Stop … I Want to Get Off”

  1. Martin Says:

    Best new idea for airline pax in years. The younger set will love it. If it is implemented correctly, it could ultimately help decide what part of the cabin a certain type of individual would be sat, or who you could be sat next to.

  2. Dale Kettring Says:

    I’m with you. Let me have my personal space when on an aircraft. I’ve paid for it, and it is mine for the duration of the flight.

    If the airlines do implement these issues, there should be some kind of opt-out/leave-me-alone option.

  3. Mark Holden Says:

    You must be smiling to much. A stern frown to should help you my friend! ;-) Whenever I jumpseat in uniform (a rare occurence), I always try to sport a “I’m busy! Yes, I am an airline pilot, and no I don’t really want to talk about me or you” sort of frown ;-)

    And PS — I do enjoy educating the general public from time to time though

    Mark Holden

  4. Suzanne Says:

    For the aviator who thinks he has everything cool, I bet you don’t have this… Check it out,
    Please go to

  5. Eric Says:

    I suggest getting an ipod or Bose noise cancelling headphones. I love mine. Put those suckers on and pretend you cant hear anybody. I love to do that with flight attendants who live for making you raise your seat up.

  6. Shashank Nigam Says:

    Co-incidentally, I wrote about this very topic last week. I think it’s a good idea…it’s an opportunity airlines can’t miss. The traits of a good business initiative are that they often polarize people – some love them and some hate them. Those that try to appeal to everyone usually don’t make it too far.

    I think Bluenity can be a good pull-factor for at least the younger generation. Personally, I feel offended if I’m on a flight for more than 5 hrs and the person next to me doesn’t even say “Hi”. Bluenity, and GenFlyLounge by Lufthansa can do wonders for the brands.

    Would love to have your thoughts on my original article:

  7. B-Rad Says:

    I haven’t done all the research on it but, I think it is something that you will sign on and not required to do. You have to opt in and not opt out. Just like Facebook its there but, you don’t have to sign on. If it takes off then businesses will find ways to advertise on it and then maybe we won’t have to pay to check that first bag. I think there is great potential for it but, I would fall into the younger category.

    As for the personal space, I find it is best to put on your most ill face, sit down, don’t say a word, pull out the air sick bag, place in your lap, and enjoy the extra seat next to you that just opened up.

  8. Robert Mark Says:

    Oh I know it’s voluntary, but I’m a curmudgeon on an airplane. Next thing you know they’ll be letting people talk on cell phones at FL 390.

    But you’re surely right about that advertising issue. If they can they will and some airlines have already begun airborne billboards.

    Thanks for your note. Love your facility too, especially on days like this when it’s 25 degrees and snowy in Chicago.

  9. B-Rad Says:

    I appreciate the comment I will let everyone here know.

    I wouldn’t mind being able to text in flight but, I would mind phone conversations. It bothers me when someone gets on the phone seconds after the mains touch down to let their significant other know they landed. Really??

    If you can’t wait until you get into the terminal then text it to them.

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