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Virgin's creepy new in-flight flirting service
Sir Richard Branson talks up the chances that Virgin's Los Angeles to Vegas "seat-to-seat delivery" option will help fliers "get lucky"
 

Virgin America kicked off its new Los Angeles to Las Vegas route this week. That in itself isn't too newsworthy — plenty of airlines make the short hop from the City of Angels to Sin City. But the new in-flight option Virgin rolled out along with the new route has people talking — maybe even hooking up.

The "seat-to-seat delivery" service lets Virgin passengers use their seat's in-flight entertainment console to order a cocktail, a snack, or even a meal for a flier in any seat in the cabin. Yes, says Mary Forgione at The Los Angeles Times, "it's a flirty seat-to-seat way to hit on someone in midair."

Sir Richard Branson, the iconoclastic billionaire owner of the Virgin empire, is pretty explicit about this. In a cheeky video promoting the new service (watch above), Branson gives some self-referential tips for "getting lucky" with a fellow passenger, then concludes: "I'm not a betting man, but I'd say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent."

The reaction to this experiment in social interaction hasn't been uniformly positive. "I'm not a betting man, but I'd say Virgin's chances of losing all their female customers over this are at least 100 percent," says Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker. Allowing in-flight stalking isn't "so much convenient as straight up creepy."

The biggest problem, notes Caroline Morse at Smarter Travel, is that there's nowhere a flier "can easily flee if they aren't interested in reciprocating your advances."

Most fliers dread getting stuck next to a chatty seatmate on a long-haul flight, but that's usually easily solved by putting in your headphones or pretending to sleep. Now imagine being stuck next to that same seatmate, except the seatmate is sending you free booze, hoping to loosen you up a bit. It's like being trapped inside a flying meat-market bar! [Smarter Travel]

Still, Morse imagines some delightfully "passive-aggressive" uses for the new service. If you're stuck next to an obese row-mate who orders some junky snack, for example, "send him or her a salad." Or: Tired of hearing the toddler in the next row whine about not getting enough iPad time? "Send the child a whiskey for its bottle! Good times."

Oh, loosen up, says Karla Cripps at CNN. "The only problem we foresee is a surge in the number of passengers prowling up and down the aisles 'going to the bathroom' for a fourth and fifth time." Otherwise, this seems like nothing but "good news for helpless romantics." Up until now, the best thing about air travel was "gawking at good-looking strangers." Now, if you manage to find the right combination of drink order, timing, and follow-up pickup line on the in-flight texting system, you might just, as Branson suggests, get lucky. Love is in the air, indeed.

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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