Reaching for the Sky with Social Media.
By Vijay Dandapani
Saturday, 3rd March 2012
It is a rare day when some airline somewhere does not get flak for a range of woes, real and imagined, felt by customers.

Often overlooked is the regularity with which ill-behaved customersset about ruining the service experience for both the airline and other passengers as is documented in a Wall Street Journal report headlined "Cracking Down on Crime in the Skies".

Even more welcome is the not so often customer service initiative that attempts to crack new frontiers. That at least appears to be the case with KLM's (officially known as Air France-KLM since the 2004 merger) recent announcement.

In announcing KLM Meet and Seat, the airline attempts to take the use of social media including networking sites like LinkedIn to new heights with perhaps considerable potential for similarly situated industries like hospitality. The airline's website promoting the initiative notes that its "Meet & Seat lets you find out about interesting people who will be on board your KLM flight such as other passengers attending the same event as you at your destination."

While pointing out that their offering is the first of its kind, KLM asks passengers interested in partaking of the feature to share their Facebook or LinkedIn profile through the "manage my booking" function. They could then check the profile details of other passengers to see where they will be sitting while also choosing their own seats.

By looking at the profile details of others who have consented to being a part of meet and seat, passengers could choose to sit next to someone with similar interests and/or work.

Privacy advocates may be leery of the offering but there seem to be adequate safeguards on tap including an assurance from the airline to not use the data for any other purpose much less give it to third parties. T

he settings also allow prospective passengers to limit the amount of detail on their social media sites visible to fellow passengers. Further, all data is erased 48 hours after departure.

The potential for hospitality is self-evident as F&B in particular could stand to benefit from guests at a hotel, particularly large convention and resort hotels, where folks with similar preferences may look to spend an evening with or even share an activity with fellow guests.

Obviously, there is no compulsion and those who value their privacy after work could ignore the feature.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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