The very nature of an aircraft’s confined environment puts frequent flyers in close quarters with one another on a regular basis. While some passengers may be worthy subjects of air travel pet peeves, there may be a few that one might not object to conversing with.
Airlines and tech companies have caught on to this notion, and set out to create apps and tools to bridge connections between passengers, whether for business or pleasure.
One such tool, Skycheckin, lets users virtually “check in” to their flight to see who’s on board or at the airport. As with other social networking sites, Skycheckin users may post their personal details and browse other people’s profiles.
Users sign up with an e-mail account or with one click through their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts and select their flight. Then they can view other Skycheckin members at the gate or on the aircraft using in-flight Wi-Fi. They may also contact other members by e-mail, set up a meeting point for an in-person interaction, or engage in public discourse in the app.
Skycheckin lets users filter flight companions by age, gender, nationality, or activities and interests. Users can opt to receive e-mail notifications when a flyer who matches a certain profile checks into the same flight. Skycheckin is available for iOS devices through the app store.
Virgin America has a slightly more business-oriented approach with the airline’s Here On Biz app. The app requires users to sign up via LinkedIn and log in when they arrive at the gate or while in-flight. Users may then connect with passengers on their flight, others on currently airborne Virgin America flights, or Virgin America passengers heading to the same destination. Here On Biz is supported on all Virgin America domestic flights, although is only available for iOS platforms.
While Skycheckin and Here On Biz are the newest contenders in the in-flight social network segment, other airlines have made similar entries into the field that still have a strong presence.
Lufthansa’s MemberScout service, the granddaddy of social networking in the sky, was introduced in 2009 and has leaned away from business connections and toward more social interaction. The app and website currently allow its users to share stories, secrets, and tips with other members of Miles & More, Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program. Flyers may seek advice, such as “where can I get a good burrito in Seattle?” or offer suggestions for efficient travel. The service also welcomes its users to connect in person, such as meeting for coffee before a flight, and features a section where travelers can see who is looking to share a taxi ride. MemberScout is open to members of its Miles & More frequent flyer program, and is accessible as a Web app from any browser or through the Lufthansa mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices.
KLM also offers its own service, Meet & Seat, which lets flyers see who will be on their upcoming flight. Participants link their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to Meet & Seat, and prospective seatmates can browse their various social media profiles. From there, users can request to sit next to somebody of particular interest, meet up in-flight or at the airport, or share landside transportation upon arrival. Meet & Seat is not available as an app, and must be accessed through a Web browser.
Each service or app has its own strengths, and while each airline’s service is specific to their own flights, Skycheckin offers an umbrella service for all flyers. Gone are the days when it was considered taboo to meet somebody in person from an online encounter. So go, seize your smartphone, and meet somebody special in-flight!
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