The Social Dutchman

This is a guest post by Vishal Mehra, a digital marketer with a passion for aviation, who kindly agreed to write for my while I’m away on vacation.

The genesis of this post, my first ever, was a tweet to me by Rohit Rao, known as @TheAeroBlogger on my favorite Social Networking site, Twitter. I would talk about Twitter on another post, but this one is all about my passion, my passion for airplanes, travel & social media, & my recent experience of all of that converging into one wholesome package.

I was traveling on Business to the US recently, and on that trip, @KLM became my 31st airline. KLM was not my primary choice – in fact, I wanted to fly its Corporate (and SkyTeam) partner, Air France. However, by the end, I was very glad it turned out the way it did!

I had read a lot about the “truly” social seating features that KLM had introduced, for the first time ever in the world of commercial aviation through its initiative known as Meet and Seat. When I realized that my flights would have those features while checking in, the social media guy in me took the front seat (not literally, premium economy requires you to pay more).

After filling in all relevant details, I was surprised to find only 2 gentlemen using the service on the Delhi-Amsterdam leg. One through Facebook, and the other through LinkedIn. Unfortunately for me, none of the hot chicks on the flight decided to bother themselves with it (like this un-official video would have you believe). Surprisingly, for the rest of the legs (Amsterdam-Washington, New York-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-Delhi), I was the only user of this program!

Although, its an exciting development, the concept of Social Seating has been discussed for a while now. You can look at the coverage of the Meet & Seat launch by @SimpliFlying as an example of this. Other specialized players in the space like Satisfly have more detailed features, allowing better matching & flexibility to travelers.

Being a marketer, my left brain & my right brain both tell me KLM’s (lack of) marketing of Meet and Seat is stupid. There is no special promotion on KLM’s homepage for the feature (unlike airBaltic promoting its satisfly features). Even the check-in page had little mention. I first sighted a RHS dynamic banner while filling in my API (Advance Passenger Information). Some might say that’s appropriate given meet & seat is an optional additional feature, I would highly disagree.

KLM has an exclusive service, which is available on only 1 other airline out of the hundreds of other airlines around the world. Why would they not want to talk about it???

KLM has one of the best social media response teams in the industry. Spread across regions, on Facebook and Twitter, interacting and delighting travelers every minute, KLM knows how to use the social media. KLM’s marketing team was behind the fantastic Surprise campaign, and they have a gamut of helpful and entertaining mobile apps out there too. I find it astounding that when it comes to Meet and Seat, there is very little noise generated by them.

In this era of increased social connectivity and interaction, Meet and Seat could have easily become the talking point among travelers, some of whom might have even paid a premium to fly KLM because of it.

The only logical explanation I can think of for underpromoting the service is that it is still in beta, and KLM is in the process of adding more features and capabilities.

To that, I have only 3 words: look at Google.

My experience on KLM was fantastic. The cabin crew was most friendly & helpful in all four legs of the trip, and I would fly with them again for those Big MD-11 windows (although the IFE was crappy, and the MD-11 fleet is sadly being phased out), for the wonderful hub at Schiphol, for the amazing roof at Schiphol, making you see aircraft fly in and out, and for its wonderful, courteous staff. If Meet and Seat had been promoted well, it could have definitely been another solid reason.

PS: This post was coined “The Social Dutchman” by me after realizing KLM is more than just a “Flying Dutchman” & I hope they live up to this recognition.