The Social Check-In

I recently came across this article on Huffington Post. That’s right, fly with South African Airways and you could find yourself with a new Facebook friend for life. 


When you’re strolling down the aisle on the lookout for 34B (guaranteed to get you a buddy or two) and find your neighbors nesting either side of your empty seat, a little voice in your head may be heard with either 1. “Win”, 2. “Looks safe enough”, 3. “For fucks sake”. Sometimes it’s so bad the whole plane hears 3.

Now I’ve had my fair share of unluckiness when it comes to random seat allocating. There will always be the passenger that should really have been given two seats instead of one, plus your lap; the poor soul that’s really feeling the effects of high altitude flatulence; the karate kid that practices their moves on your seat; and then those that pass out like a baby and wake up in a puddle of drool…on your shoulder. Nice.

Obviously SAA’s new idea to choose your seatmate based on their profile will help you dodge the larger passengers, just by taking a look at their profile picture. Through checking out their bio, likes, music and films, you may find a few clues of who to pick and who to avoid. The ‘Social Check-In’ is basically acceptable stalking to avoid these problems, brilliant!

I really wish this had been an available option for me after at times, especially after I experienced 7 hours of a fellow Brit telling me there was no hope for my generation. I was on my way back from the most incredible month in South Africa, extremely sad to be leaving and extremely hungover. A sour old lady was the last person I needed next to me. The introductions started well; it was nice to reminisce on some of the highlights and find common ground on our trip along the Garden Route. Then the conversation turned to back home and my future career, how it was all downhill once university started and I was thrown into the real world. Not even the obvious placing of earphones into my ears would stop this depressing rant, I started wishing for plane windows that would open and suck me out….or her.

If only I’d had the social seat selector to check out her likes- ‘Scaring off little girls and destroying all their hopes of a bright future’. Note taken lady.

Luckily that’s just been a one off for me, or rather, I stopped talking on flights.

Whilst Facebook can now help you avoid some difficult passengers, it’s not going to find you the really interesting ones. I’d never have chosen the two middle-aged men that sat either side by me as I flew to California; that was a pretty fun conversation but I’d never have thought “sugar daddy alert, I’ll take them”. Nor would I, whilst actually on an SAA flight, have picked the South African that chatted all the way from Johannesburg to East London about my life, his life, the Wildcoast and Wales. I let him have my in-flight food and he gave me his business card (whether it was actually for “business” I’ll never know).

Facebook’s never going to find you an in-flight counselor either. You may know about the little drama I had as I was a few thousand miles above Ireland. Long story short, I was on my way to New York and my visa papers were in a toilet cubicle at Heathrow. It really wasn’t an ideal situation but I owe not going crazy completely to my seatmate. We’d already been chatting since take off, I’d learnt he used to play for the Harlequins Rugby team, he’d also founded a youth organisation; he was by far the most interesting person I’ve ever had the pleasure of being randomly sat next to. When panic struck he comforted and laughed with me and told me all was not totally doomed. Turned out he was also a professional motivational speaker. 

It was too good to be true, but if they were lies they did me no harm. The thing is, would Facebook find you this sort of person? There’s a big worry this will turn into a new form of dating and that maybe the Mile High Club will get a surge in members. Also, if we’re all judging one another through Facebook, then that means someone is judging us. Think of the sheer rejection you’d get when no one rocks up next to you; get me the obese, flatulent Pteromerhanophobic any day just to save me from social network rejection.


So you can escape the weirdos, or find the love of your life, you could even set your own profile in an attempt to scare others off. But, SAA, whilst you may be on to something here, I prefer to gamble with my seatmates. 


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