Traveling during the holidays can be soul-crushing. Traffic to the airport is terrible, so you tense up, nervous that you’ll miss your flight. At bag check, you find out your gift-laden suitcase is over the weight limit, and there’s a $100 fee. You spend an hour in the security line, only to find out your flight has been delayed. After buying some overpriced airport snacks, you sit on the floor in a crowded terminal where all of the seats (and power outlets) are taken. When you finally board, the plane is packed with stressed-out passengers. You find your row, wedge your bag into the overhead bin, and sit down...next to the love of your life? Hey, it could happen.
The experienced traveler believes face-to-face connections are more valuable than the ones people make on websites and apps. She says, “With online dating, you’re presenting this fakeness that isn’t real, and it’s the wrong energy—it’s not who you are.” She recommends dressing in a way that reflects your true self when you fly. “Don’t wear your pajama pants and your flip flops on the plane if you’re looking to hook up.” Instead, she suggests, “Wear stuff that says something about you and gives people something to ask questions about. Just really embrace your energy and put it out there, and you’re going to attract your energy. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Don’t force it. That space is so cramped, and people are dealing with a lot.
If your seatmate doesn’t start a conversation, you’ll have to make the first move—but it doesn’t have to be a big one. If you see someone struggling with their bag, offer to help put it in the overhead bin. Greene says that offering or asking for help can be a great way to get a conversation going. She suggests a compliment like, “You look so comfortable in your seat. I can never get comfortable. What’s the secret?” and points out, “When you’re talking about something like that, you’re complimenting the person and simultaneously asking for help. So you’re giving that person an opportunity to really respond to you.” Try to avoid yes/no questions, and ask something that encourages the other person to open up.
Sometimes, according to Poole, saying ‘Hi’ is enough to start a conversation. “That ‘Hi’ will get them out of whatever world they’re in. At first they might be confused, then they’ll be intrigued, and then they’ll talk to you. Nobody says ‘Hi’ anymore, and it’s very simple.” She continues, “Don’t force it. That space is so cramped, and people are dealing with a lot. You don’t know what kind of emotional thing they’re dealing with or where they are in their life, but it’s nice to just say a couple of words when you sit down. Then you just feel it out.” As for cues to "feel" out? Be aware of body language.Greene says if someone isn’t making any eye contact with you, or immediately puts their headphones in and closes their eyes, it’s pretty clear they’re saying, “Leave me alone.”
But is it ever okay to touch a seatmate you’re flirting with? Greene sounds hesitant as she says, “I think that if you’re engrossed in a conversation that’s fun and you sort of tap their arm gently… if it goes and flows with what you’re talking about. For the most part, you’re in such close quarters that touch is something I’d probably stay away from, because you sort of can’t escape.” When flirting on a flight, Greene says it can help to think of yourself as a host instead of a guest. She says, “Think of being a host at a party in your own home, and look for ways you can make the other passenger feel comfortable so they have a good experience.” Another way to make your seatmate comfortable is by offering them some food, especially if it’s an individually-wrapped snack.
If you’re interested in someone who isn’t next to you, Poole recommends buying them a drink.“Nobody really does that anymore, and it is a big deal when you do it. If you buy someone a drink, they should come over and say thank you. If they don’t, you know they’re rude and you don’t want to go out with them anyway," she explains. "If they do, it’s your chance to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I just thought you were really cute and I wanted to say hello.’”
Eventually, no matter how well the inflight flirting goes, you’re going to hear an announcement that the plane is making its final descent. If you want to keep this person in your life, it’s time to take action. Greene says, “This is where it’s really important to have a business card, even if you don’t have a business card for work.” That way, instead of asking for the other person’s phone number, she says, “You can say something like, ‘I really enjoyed meeting you, and I’d love to see you again. Here’s my card.’” Or, Poole has another idea: “Put your Twitter or Facebook or Instagram on it, so they can scope you out and get a feel for you. It’s a nonaggressive way to get to know somebody.”
Whether you’re flirting on the ground or in the air, Greene says, “It’s about having fun, and just never knowing where it’s going to lead to.” Whether or not it leads to a holiday hookup, bonding with a seatmate will help the flight go by a little faster, and that’s always a good thing."