Last weekend, I was flying home for a quick visit. I was lucky enough to land the aisle seat with an empty middle seat. As I usually do when flying, I put my earbuds in, turned my music up and closed myself off for the three-hour ride. Two hours in, after finishing the latest issue of ASDA News, I laid it in the middle seat and checked on the time. I noticed my row mate glancing down on the middle seat, once then twice. I could sense his curiosity and hesitation to ask me about what I was reading. Now I’m not one of those passengers to strike up conversations with strangers, but in this case I removed my earbuds and asked if he would like to see the issue. What followed was an hour-long conversation about my experiences in dental school and what ASDA was all about.
This inflight experience made me wonder, “What’s the value in striking a conversation with your fellow airline passengers?”
According to a survey by the travel management company Egencia, 24 percent of business travelers like to talk to people on planes. I wouldn’t consider myself to be one of those people. However, during my (few) inflight exchanges with other passengers, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences and even speak to issues like student debt.
A 2014 survey of Virgin Atlantic flyers reported that one in five people have done business with a fellow traveler they met on a flight. Airlines are taking note of these trends and are now taking networking possibilities to new heights (pun intended). Delta’s Innovation Class was created to bring industry leaders and mentors from around the world to the adjacent seat on your next flight. After selecting an Innovation Class flight you apply by uploading your LinkedIn credentials. If chosen, you not only receive a free flight, but will also be placed next to a mentor or leader in your industry that you can network with for your entire flight. And if you happen to be flying coast to coast, that’s a lot of networking!
So what if you’re not chosen to be on the next Innovation Class flight? ASDA members are privy to a wealth of resources when it comes to networking. How to find a mentor, “Networking 101” and even a video on how to shake hands. So what better place to put these skills to work then on your next flight?
Reaching out across the aisle (also intended) gives you a chance to not only share your story with others, but also to experience and meet people that are unlike your fellow enamel savvy colleagues. So on your next flight when the captain turns off the seatbelt sign, take a few minutes to turn off Spotify and talk with your fellow passenger.
Have you had an exceptional inflight experience with another passenger? Share your story in the comments below!
~Mike Mayr, Boston ’16, contributing editor