Would you like to choose who you sit beside or deliberately avoid in a jet based on ethnicity, sex, occupation, musical, sporting and cultural preferences, or perceived socio-economic status based on place of residence?

These are questions that our domestic and international airlines will grapple with as yet another intriguing application for Facebook and LinkedIn arises, thanks to a decision by Dutch carrier KLM to allow linking and searching of social media preferences to its booking process.

The reality must be that if this turns into a raging success for one airline, all airlines will follow. Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar are probably working on it already, and I’d bet Singapore Airlines’ Scoot low cost brand has already devised a quirky business plan for Facebooking mobs of friends.

Since February Malaysia Airlines has offered a Facebook option in which passengers not only see a map of the available seats to choose from on their intended flight, but the location of any booking held by a friend of that Facebook member on the same flight, together with an option to message each other and move the seats together.

KLM goes further. It will allow Facebook and LinkedIn members to search the public profile of all such social media members who may have linked their ticket purchase to their profiles, presumably with a view to sitting near them, or avoiding them. Which also means stalking them.

There are some very big social media and privacy and discrimination issues inherent in the KLM initiative. It would allow passengers in this country to choose to avoid sitting beside people of a different cultural or ethnic group, which is something people may well do routinely in some societies.

Then again, do you really want to sit beside someone who LinkedIn says is from the same profession? If you don’t, might it cause embarrassment to them to find they are being avoided by a peer? Using social media data bases when choosing your seating means you may need to discourage some individuals from choosing to sit beside you, or be discouraged by those who don’t accept your suggestion that you should sit beside them.  It could add real social stress to what used to be the simple function of booking a seat.

In the KLM case, people could chose to sit beside you without your being aware that a complete stranger has done this with a view to discussing business with you uninvited. Which isn’t something you might have anticipated after the doors are closed on a flight that is going to last 14 hours!

And besides, if the social media lore is correct, many Facebook identities are fraudulent.

The issues with Facebooking or LinkedIn seating preferences suggest serious invasions of privacy could occur on a scale large within the confines of frequent air travel.

There are some of us who want to go about life, especially life in a tightly packed tube, as anonymously or privately as possible, or look to long distance flying as an opportunity for snoozing, watching movies or enjoying the prolonged seasonal twilight of the high arctic on those magic flights that follow the day/night divide for hours on end.

At the moment the most powerful tools for making desired seat selections in full service airlines is the price of the fare in combination with any loyalty program status. Those two factors decide what seats you are offered by the booking processes.

Just where Qantas and Virgin Australia and their key international partners and competitors choose to take the use of social media data base linkages and searches raises a whole new set of questions.