Fliers can sign up for a match made in the heavens

Consuming Interests

November 06, 2005|By DAN THANH DANG | DAN THANH DANG,SUN REPORTER

Brace yourself, fliers.

Peter Shankman wants to make flying the friendly skies a whole lot friendlier.

How so? The 33-year-old Manhattan publicist and entrepreneur wants to help you make an on-flight connection, maybe even a life-long connection.

Yes. Shankman is talking about a romantic tete-a-tete 30,000 feet above ground over shared bags of pretzels and a drink.

If the prospect of finding love in the air makes your heart all aflutter, then Airtroductions.com - a dating, networking and friendship-building Web site launched in September by Shankman - aims to make it easier for you to hook up with other sociable travelers.

"I designed this primarily to reduce the amount of psychological hell you go through from sitting an inch and a half from someone else in a confined space," says Shankman, who owns a public-relations firm. "I fly 150,000 miles a year and I watch a lot of people. They're either sleeping, playing on a computer, listening to music or talking. I'm giving people a shot at sitting next to a potential friend instead of Harry O'Drool."

Membership to the online service is free.

All you have to do is sign up, fill out a questionnaire about yourself as you would with any other dating service and then plug in your flight information. The service then alerts you if any other members share the same flight. If you find someone you want to connect with, it'll cost you $5 to chat and then decide if you'd like to arrange sitting next to each other on the flight. Or you can pay a $19.95 monthly fee for unlimited meetings.

Julia Filz, communications director for Baltimore's National Museum of Dentistry, says she's open to trying anything after suffering through her share of nightmare flights.

A nervous flier to begin with, Filz, like most fliers, has also endured screaming babies, Chatty Cathys and early-morning intoxicated travelers.

"I do a lot of deep-breathing to get through it," Filz says. "Flights would be more enjoyable if you were sitting next to someone interesting. I'm not so much looking for matchmaking, but just someone to talk to about work or network with."

Now some of us surly types might be thinking, "Does the world really need another dating service?" We also might be thinking that we'd pay really good money just to be left alone on a flight.

Shankman says such grouches should fear not. You, too, can use Airtroductions - to guarantee a seat next to someone who will promise not to pester you on the flight.

No forced friendliness required, Shankman says. You determine whether you want to communicate with or even sit with a potential match.

Early users of Airtroductions might experience some difficulty finding flying partners because there were only 2,286 members as of the end of October. But Shankman says that even with so few members, 10 matches have already been made.

"I think most people will find that if you're sitting next to someone you want [to be next to], the flight goes by a whole lot faster," Shankman says. "You actually enjoy it."

So slip the iPod ear buds back into your carry-on bag. Stow your laptop computer in the overhead compartment. Put down the latest best-selling thriller. Sacrifice that nap.

In other words, why waste time snoozing on your neighbor when you could be schmoozing with your neighbor?

Ongoing dispute

Here's an update to our story from two weeks ago : We're plenty dismayed to report that we were too quick to award quality points to Antwerpen Hyundai in Catonsville for resolving a three-month dispute with Theresa Wilson. In July, Wilson left her 2001 Elantra with the dealership to have an oil leak fixed, only to come back to a damaged vehicle, stolen property, a $75 ticket in the mail for a red light she didn't run, and 694 more miles on the odometer.

Hoping to avoid a battle of attorneys, Wilson contacted The Sun after Antwerpen repaired the damage to her bumper, but balked at paying her for the other damages and missing property.

Dealership attorney Hillel Traub blamed the whole thing on a "misunderstanding" and said Antwerpen was sending Wilson a check to cover her expenses.

Wilson called us back last week to let us know that Antwerpen cut her a check, but for $66 less than what she believed she was owed for the property stolen from her car while it was at the dealership, a small reimbursement for the extra mileage and money to get the car detailed to clean up the mess left by the unauthorized joyrider.

"They wanted me to sign a release to say they weren't responsible for what happened to my car," Wilson says. "It's a difference of $66. That's not a lot of money, but it's the principle of the matter."

"I'm beyond irritated with Antwerpen," Wilson says. "They have not acted in good faith."

Antwerpen says they cut her a check for $500.

"We had a resolution," Traub says. "Unfortunately, Ms. Wilson, after we had already reached an agreement, decided she wanted more. After negotiating in good faith, we decided we could not go backwards."

Wilson says she's now heading to small-claims court to get the $414 she says she's owed and she'll be seeking full compensation for the extra mileage on her car as well.

Seems to us this whole thing could have been avoided. Stay tuned.

Got a consumer gripe? Call Dan Thanh Dang at 410-332-6171, or e-mail dan.thanh.dang@baltsun.com.

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