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How to Screen Your Seatmates Before You Get on the Plane

Imagine if there was a tool to screen for children, obnoxiously talkative travelers, or other annoying people when selecting your seat on a plane. So far it exists only in our dreams. But KLM's Meet and Seat concept comes close.

Meet and Seat is a KLM program that allows travelers to choose seatmates based on information from Facebook or LinkedIn. Participants can browse profiles of fellow flyers on the seat selection page, and choose their spots on the plane accordingly.

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We reported on Meet and Seat when it launched last year. But recently, I got a chance to test it out on a round-trip flight from New York to Amsterdam. What I learned is that a social networking scheme is only as good as the quality and number of its participants. In my case, I found the latter as thin as an airplane blanket.

After I received confirmation of my booking, I was able to connect to Meet and Seat through Facebook. I was given the option to select which parts of my Facebook profile I wanted fellow passengers to have access to. After I consented to connect my Facebook account with the program, I viewed the available passenger profiles. But there was one large problem.

Almost no one had shown up for the party. Only one other passenger had signed up for Meet and Seat on my returning flight. And zero flyers had opted in for my departing red-eye.

The absence of seatmate options compelled me to exit the program and deactivate my account. Clearly, this can't work without some willing participants to seed the selection process. Is Meet and Seat a withering concept?

I asked KLM how the program was doing. "More then 24,000 passengers shared their profile since the start," said a representative from the airline. "And we keep on improving our products and services. For Meet and Seat, this means that we are working to integrate Meet and Seat in the check-in procedure, expected end [of] March, April to go live." As it stands, passengers can only join the program up to 48 hours prior to departure.

According to KLM's website, twenty million people fly with the airline annually. So roughly, less than .12 percent of KLM passengers get involved with Meet and Seat. My experience—on a Boeing 777-200ER with only one user per several hundred passengers—probably wasn't the best model of participation. But it's safe to say that the majority of KLM travelers aren't very interested in Meet and Seat.

Given the airline's promise to integrate Meet and Seat with check-in, I'd expect a few more people to get onboard. Yet I don't predict a surge. Hobbies, careers, and assorted attributes listed on social-networking sites might tell you whether your seatmate enjoys Grumpy Cat or works in corporate accounting. But can they reveal whether you'll savor a chat with your neighbor for seven long consecutive hours on an international flight?

Have you tried using Meet and Seat? If not, would you?

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(Photo: Plane Passengers via Shutterstock)

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