A New Kind of Mile-High Club

On my flight home from vacation one year I ended up seated next to a newlywed who was heading home to his wife from a business trip. To celebrate his wedding the guy bought me and the woman next to us a glass of white wine and a snack pack.

Another time, I ended up seated in front of a guy who helped me get my bag in the overhead compartment. We ended up sharing a cab into the city. He was in town for a friend’s wedding and I had an 8-hour layover and was meeting a friend for a few hours. We ended up having breakfast with his friends before parting ways. That encounter led to a 2-second spot in his music video* – turns out he is a Grammy-nominated artist – and a pretty neat contact to have.

These chance meetings resulted in some great travel stories and in some instances even resulted in long-term friendships. But then there are the seat neighbors I was not so happy about. There was the guy who snored really loudly, the woman with the flu, the baby who cried non-stop…and yes, the smoker (long story).  It was during those flights that I wished the airline I was on offered an option to pick who I sat next to.

Enter Seating Programs. When I first heard of these programs I thought: Well that’s pretty neat. I would sometimes like to choose who I am sitting next to. Might as well network while you’re stuck in the air, right?

As this article explains it, Social Seating programs “let you see whether other…executives will be on the same plane or whether someone is flying to San Francisco to attend the same business meeting. Or, they allow you to just peruse passengers’ social-network profiles to find a potential soul mate.”

And then today, I came across Delta’s Innovation Class. This blows the other programs out of the water. According to its website, Delta’s Innovation Class is a “mentoring program at 35,000 ft.” It offers individuals the opportunity to apply through LinkedIn to present themselves to industry experts on a flight. Here’s a video that explains the program very clearly:

While the program is still in its infancy, it seems to me that it has already gotten off to a great start. It is a great way for people to meet potential investors or just connect with someone who can serve as a great resource for your business or start up. It gives many young innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunity to chat with someone that they otherwise wouldn’t ever get the chance to meet.

But looking beyond the perks it gives participants, the program gives Delta a leg up in brand awareness. And LinkedIn also gets some major kudos given that the program is powered through them. There have been articles and tweets and overall general buzz about this. Because that’s ultimately the goal — whether the bottom line for Delta or LinkedIn is to increase their customer base or increase their retention rate or something else, this program clearly plays a part in that. I am eager to learn more about this and see what comes of this. Maybe the next big idea in technology or science or art will come out of one of these meetings.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you a Delta customer or would you consider becoming one because of this? How about LinkedIn? Is your profile up-to-date?

*See if you can spot me in the music video here!