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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Social seating: First airlines, then everything else

An exclusive look at one social-seating system that hopes to completely change how we travel and go out

You can escape your country, but you cannot escape Facebook.

This year the social networking site could pass 1 billion users, and if certain members in the travel industry have their way, many of them will be using the network while they book their flights.

Already KLM and Malaysia Airlines are using Facebook to show if any of your friends are on board — you can then select a seat next to them.

But they are both proprietary systems, unavailable to other airlines. Now, Eran Savir, the 37-year-old CEO and co-founder of SeatID, plans to make so-called “social seating” a natural feature of ticket purchases across the whole airline sector.

His brainchild, which he runs out of Israel with CTO David Rachamim, 36, and plans to launch around September this year, is the latest of the next-gen social-seating systems to be made available to any airline that wants it, and we’ve been given an exclusive first look at how it works. (Scroll down)

Moreover, Savir says flights are just the first step in a plan he has to completely change how we travel and go out.

“Trains, sport events, music events, theaters — everywhere where people book a seat, social seating can be relevant,” he says.

Then again, he would say that.

As of yet SeatID has zero confirmed partners, despite Savir meeting with “over 20 airlines so far, from America (North and South), Europe, Asia and the Middle East, high-end and low-cost carriers. We plan to eventually speak with all the airlines.”

He’s even willing to offer it to clients for free for the first year, but not everyone is taken by the notion.

“Personally I think it’s a horrendous idea. I don’t think I want people to know where I’m sitting — it just seems like a bit of a gimmick,” says one airline insider in Hong Kong.

Have your say: Tell us in the comments if you’d use social seating when booking your next flight

Nevertheless, it takes a brave punter to write off anything with the word “social” in it these days, and both KLM and Malaysia Airlines say they’ve had success with their own systems.

Some 30,000 people use Malaysia Airlines’ MHbuddy system on a monthly basis according to Mohd Hisham Saleh, head of social media and innovation. “And it’s growing at a steady rate,” he adds. “We have built a pool of loyal users. Seventy percent of MHbuddy users are repeat customers.”

KLM’s Meet & Seat system has convinced 2,200 people to share their profiles, and its launch just last week across intercontinental flights too should see that increase “exponentially” according to Lisette Ebeling-Koning in the press office.

The fact that one of the world’s biggest booking engines, Ticketmaster, has joined the world of social seating also suggests it’s no fad.

Want to know how it works… check out the full story Via CNN