You traded a good percentage of your paycheck to wedge yourself in a row of strangers as you rocket through the sky. No one looks forward to sharing that much personal space, not even the people in first class.
Which is why the talent scouting starts early, maybe as early as the curbside check-in. You check everyone out, distinguishing the confounding from the alluring, creating your very own version of an airplane draft. Only, your draft metrics probably start and end with attraction. If you spot a live one, your antennae goes up and you check to see if, after you’ve paid $5 for your $2 coffee, they are still in your boarding area. And, if you’re lucky, you may, just may, end up rubbing elbows, and legs, and ankles, with a relatively good-looking fellow flyer. (To those of you flying Southwest, I say good luck. Racing a hundred people to the best seat takes the term meat market to a whole new level).
So, let’s say it happened, you landed a hot seatmate. Now you have two options. You can pretend you haven’t hit the jackpot and ignore them for the entire flight, occasionally trying to make accidental eye contact while you wait for them to strike up a conversation. OR, you can put your game face on, and start talking.
Whether you’ve got 45 minutes or 11 hours, here’s a quick outline for: a date on a plane.
First, take inventory, look around, are they reading something? What have they shoved into the seat back pocket for later? It’s not weird, you’re trying to find common ground.
Then, get yourself a drink, it will help. Plus, drinking at altitude packs a punch. Since you’re on an unofficial date, (in your mind), pretend you’re at a bar and offer the object of your affection a drink of their own.
*If you’re flying and it’s 6am, don’t order a cocktail. Also, I’d suggest avoiding hitting on strangers at 6am, it just seems like a losing battle. You’re probably better off reading the paper or sleeping.
Once you’ve got a cold one in hand, let the conversation begin. Don’t drink and stare. Drink and talk.
Ask them how they’re doing. Ask them about what they’re reading or listening to. If you can, avoid asking what they do for work, let them bring it up if they want to, but don’t give them a verbal questionnaire. You can offer to trade reading material or trade recommendations. Have they watched any movies on the flight or are they planning to? Do they want to watch a movie with you? That’s a good one, that could be the most convenient movie date ever.
When you start running out of material, look around you and remember that you are surrounded by dozens of complete strangers. I know it sounds mean, but make fun of them, comment on what exactly everyone else is doing. What is that guy in 5C trying to scratch? Who on the plane is going to have sex in the bathroom? Which traveler is an air marshal? Make up stories about them. If every single person on your plane seems boring to you, maybe it is in fact you who are boring. Sorry, but it’s a possibility.
That should get the conversation rolling. But, like on a non-plane date, silence can speak volumes, so don’t feel the need to rattle on like a lunatic. Relax. Let the chemistry form, or simmer, or peter out.
Ideally, you can establish some sort of flirty alliance with your seatmate. To avoid having a “Before Sunrise” scenario, see if they want to hang out or connect before the plane starts descending. If you wait until the captain announces that the plane’s landing, it will feel like last call, and no one wants to be on the receiving end of the last call sex panic.
Now that you’ve got that all figured out, you better sort out your next trip.