During a recent trans-Atlantic flight, I ended up sitting next to a Canadian college professor. He’d been working abroad for most of his life, and had some great stories to tell. We asked for double gins with our tonics and had a good laugh.
A drab, overnight flight with hardly any legroom and a TV playing one of the worst films I have ever seen was transformed into a pleasant experience.
Travelling is a great way to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with. Men and women from all walks of life and from all over the world sit right next to you in a confined space for a few hours, and then everyone goes their separate ways. It’s a unique situation, and one that was completely left up to chance, until some new networking sites came along.
Whether you’ve got a lot of work to catch up on and don’t want to be distracted or would like to do a little networking in the sky, you can be matched with a traveller on a similar wavelength.
If you just want to catch up on some sleep, you’ll be matched with someone who won’t disturb you with random questions and anecdotes. But if you’d like a little company, the networking site and your airline work together to find a friendly flier.
Some airlines are doing a good job of it themselves. Twenty per cent of Malaysia Airlines customers check in via MHBuddy, a system that can link up Facebook users with the same flight itineraries.
There are similar sites that can help you meet people once you’ve reached your destination. Users of IMGuest can connect with 50,000 members to see if anyone else is staying at their hotel.
A meeting could bring new friends, business ideas, or just great stories. But people may not want to share information with complete strangers. And for others, their trip will be the only alone time they get for a while.
It really could go either way for these kinds of sites. I’ll be interested to see if they really take off.