Friday 28 July 2017

Love is in the air if you're going Dutch

Gemma O'Doherty

Few things vex me more than Facebook. One of them is being stuck next to a stranger on a long-haul flight who wants to be my friend.



Or any flight for that matter, especially the abomination that is the Sunday night trudge from London to Dublin, when the last thing you want to do is discuss the inadequacies of Terminal 2 with Maureen from Mullingar.

No, for me, flying means noise-cancelling headphones up, eye mask down, outside world out, and an urge to wear a 'do not disturb' sign around my neck until I'm safely off the airport bus.

And what greater joy than to score an empty seat beside my own, banishing the prospect of any unwanted conversations from the moment of take-off.

So I was particularly peeved to learn that the airplane cabin -- one of the last bastions where minding your own business is still thankfully the norm -- is now under threat from the scourge of social networking.

Dutch airline KLM wants passengers to cosy up with each other before their flight and get in touch through Facebook so they can share their journey with like-minded people.

Their new 'meet and seat' service will be launched next year, though the airline is still working out the details and whether there will be a charge for what is believed to be the first matchmaking service offered by an airline in the skies.

Of course, it's all very well for those obsessive members of Facebook who spend their waking hours trying to track down anyone they've ever met and all their mates, but don't spread the silliness to the skies.

Flying is not a social occasion. It shouldn't be turned into some sort of dating outlet for weirdos in the air. It's about getting from A to B in as civilised as fashion as possible, and Lord knows these days that's not very civilised.

I don't want my airline to worry about whether I'm lonely on a plane or need to have a chat with someone who shares my interests. I want them to focus on the big stuff such as engines and Wi-Fi and cheaper fares.

And I definitely don't want to fly on a plane full of hard-up couples on their first date.

But it seems as if I'm in a minority. A poll of 1,000 travellers earlier this year found that one in two admitted to flirting during a flight.

A third of them said they ended up having a romantic encounter back on terra firma with the stranger they'd met in the air, while 8pc ended up having a full-blown relationship.

A company called Planely is already tapping into the demand for in-flight dating, allowing passengers to choose a 'flying buddy' and hook up with them at the airport.

"You can then make arrangements to sit together on the plane, have a coffee on the ground or share a cab home," its website promises.

"Why? We believe that your fellow fliers are the greatest untapped resource of knowledge and entertainment on your plane journeys."

Now where did I leave that parachute ...

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