Air passengers can be divided into roughly two types: those who chat up their seatmates and those who doggedly avoid it.
I put myself in the latter group, not because I'm anti-social, but because once a conversation starts, I'm worried there'll be no turning it off and I usually have other things to do.
But I know quite a few people who've struck up friendships -- or more -- from encounters at 30,000 feet. My friends Dave and Daphne met on a flight from Boise to Phoenix 20-some years ago and they're still happily (as far as I know) married.
PJ Osgood, founder of the matchmaking service It's Just Lunch
was in the no-chat camp until recently when she met a guy from a flight between Houston and Chicago and they decided to share a cab into the city.
"We had this great conversation and we exchanged business cards and the next day we went out to dinner," Osgood says.
A love connection was not to be (no chemistry, she says), but he was worth meeting, and this got Osgood, a frequent traveler, thinking she's been missing opportunities aloft.
First off, if you're a busy professional, she reasons, your chances are high of meeting other busy professionals while flying. And since being on a plane is "like detention, you've got all this time when you can connect with someone," you might as well put it to good use.
The last time I was seated next to someone attractive enough for me to entertain any notions of connectedness, it was on a flight to Salt Lake City and he was a Mormon father of five. But being a professional matchmaker, Osgood is way ahead of me on this.
Among her strategies:
- When open seating (a la the Southwest Airlines' model) is an option, go for it. Board somewhere in the middle of the pack so by the time you're walking down the aisle, you can assess who you might want to sit next to. Then, take the middle seat. (Oh, yeah, she adds, check the ring finger; she's not advocating adultery.)
- Carry business cards. If you do hit it off, exchanging cards is a natural way to exchange information.
- Be generous. If you have free drink coupons, for instance, offering to share is a great ice breaker.
- If you're headed in the same general direction once you land, consider sharing a cab or shuttle.
"It's important to look approachable by putting away the laptop or turning off the iPod," Osgood says. "You never know when you're going to find that person you connect with."
This post, By Jayne Clark, originally appeared in USAToday Travel. Click here for the original.