You're stuck in an 18-inch wide seat, traveling at 500 MPH in an aluminum tube. A woman (or dude with frosted hair) is trying hard not to roll her eyes as an unaccompanied minor keeps pinging the call button. The pilot wonders how he's going to continue keeping his west coast family from finding out about his east coast family. And a good-looker is thumbing through a dog-eared copy of The Bonfire Of The Vanities less than a yard away from you.
You're single. What do you do?
The humdrum tedium of air travel can be easily filled with a new friend and some snappy patter. I've had pretty good luck dating ladies I sat next to on flights and so can you. If you're into men, these tips should still work.
1. Wait until the flight is at least half over.
An early pounce makes for an awkward next few hours.
2. Make an observation about the person's choice of entertainment.
I sat next to a cute gal on a flight from Atlanta to New York and noticed she was reading a Game Of Thrones novel. Being a nerd, I was caught up on the subject and said, "That Theon Greyjoy is a real butthead, right?" She agreed, we discussed dork stuff for the next hour, ate appetizers and drank German beer (together) the following Friday.
3. Make a witty observation about the circumstances.
Being super-funny rarely hurts you. Telling an account rep for a tech startup that you'll probably start making the same noise as that colicky little baby if someone doesn't "get me another tiny bottle of whiskey stat!" is a good ice breaker, as it makes light of your alcohol problem.
4. Don't brag about yourself and keep the cheese to a minimum.
Model Melissa Statten blew up actor Brian Presley's spot by detailing the minutia of his fromage-y flirting, including his removal of his wedding band in the lavatory, on Twitter. Generally, don't be married.
5. Figure out where home is.
This sounds incredibly basic, but figuring out if a person is coming or going lets you know if the romantic angle makes any sense at all. I told a pretty Ghanaian woman on a flight from Miami that she's "Ghana" enjoy New York, and we ended up trading phone numbers.
6. If traveling to a business-y thing, discuss your business and your schedule.
If you're going to a con or a fest or a show of some kind, mention a few things that you're interested in seeing/doing/dressing-up as. It's likely your seat mate will be tickled by a similar feather. If you're, say, a panelist at SXSW, casually mention it and catch a drink with her after she sees you "mobbed" during the Q&A.
7. Know what you want.
If it's strange tale in a strange town, concentrate on making something happen immediately (the mile high club is a touch gauche for a pre-first date — that's for bored couples). If you want something more traditional, I recommend going for barbeque with a nice 27-year-old nurse as soon as you're both back in the Big Apple (or wherever you lay your head).
8. Help her with her luggage.
Helping someone hoist their bag into the overhead bin is the modern equivalent of draping your cape over a puddle.
As with nautical or land-based courtship, confidence, humor, tremendous good looks, and a genuine interest in what the other person has to say goes a long way. And get that phone number.