Airplanes are, by definition, strange places. You’re placed in a metal tube, sitting cheek by jowl with a bunch of unknown people, and the only thing you’ve got in common with them is that, at that particular time on that particular day, you’re taking that flight to get from point A to point B. Your fellow passengers, for the most part, are probably reasonably decent, up-standing, law-abiding folks, but you never know — they could cover the spectrum from kindly, doddering grandparents to budding serial killers.
Most air travelers, me included, are just grateful when the flight ends without incident and they can get out and get on with their life without further ado. And here’s how you know that that is the prevailing sentiment of virtually everyone — at the end of your next flight, watch how many people dawdle to continue their conversations with the person in the next seat over, and how many grab their carry-ons at the maximum possible speed and hightail it out of there. You can also reflect upon how many deep friendships you’ve made with random people you’ve met on an airline flight.
So how in the world did Delta and Diet Coke think that it would be a good idea to distribute drink napkins with messages that encouraged passengers to try to connect with other passengers? The napkins carried weird messages like “Be a little old school. Write down your number and give it to your plane crush. You never know…” and had places for passengers to write down their names and telephone numbers to give to their “plane crush.” Another napkin’s message was: “Because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey… you never know.”
Gee, what could go wrong with encouraging passengers to even think about another passenger as a “plane crush”? And what could be creepier than getting a napkin with somebody’s name and phone number on it, knowing that, after the flight is ended and you’re deposited in a strange city, the total stranger who had it handed to you might want to interact and see if you’re interested in something more? And, possibly, be upset if you aren’t and ready to stalk you to the end of your days?
After passengers commented on the obvious creepiness, Delta and Coke apologized and have withdrawn the napkins. But it really makes you wonder: what process is used in vetting airplane napkins, and who in the world was responsible for coming up with the napkin text and approving it? Doesn’t Delta have any idea that 99.9% of its passengers don’t view airplane flights as a great opportunity for flirting?