Turns out there’s plenty of love in the air when in transit?—even at 35,000 feet.
Stale recycled air, fluorescent terminal lighting, and cellophane-wrapped sandwiches aren’t the obvious ingredients for the perfect first date. Yet, the data suggests that there is plenty of romance available right at your gate. A study released by HSBC found that 1 in 50 passengers meet a romantic partner while in flight, and at least half of us befriend our seatmates. There’s an inherent mystique to traveling. After all, you never know who you’ll cross paths with. These apps have tapped into that allure, fostering huge communities of travelers after friendships, networking opportunities, and of course, on-the-go romance.
Inflighto’s founder credits its creation from his own experience as a frequent traveler, noting the innate romance of connecting travelers you might never otherwise meet. He met his own wife via online dating, and it clicked: with little else to do in-flight, it’s the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation at 35,000 feet. Designed by pilots for this purpose, the app aims to enhance passengers’ experiences with features like real-time maps and weather radar, but its thousands of users engage most intimately with the Inflight Chat.
Inflighto tracks all commercial itineraries and creates a dedicated chat room among passengers and crew for each individual flight. It requires no personal log-in information, so passengers can remain anonymous if they like and develop a personal connection with others at their own pace. Users report that the Inflighto chat room isn’t just great for meeting other fliers, but works to crowdsource all sorts of tips about a destination city, spurring debates about the best local wine bars and site-seeing tips from residents themselves. The flight crew also jumps into the chat on occasion. If the plane is flying over a unique point of interest, the pilots notify the group, making the air travel experience more engaging. Users on the ground tracking a specific flight can even chat live with passengers in the air.
The dating app Happn is entirely location-centric, connecting users based on real-time proximity so you match with those immediately nearby. This feature has made the app grow popular among air travelers who use Happn to “heart” other users spotted browsing at terminal shops, or strike up conversation with a passenger seated several rows away in flight. The developers had even noticed which airports spark the most passion. According to Happn’s user data, the most romantic air travelers find love at Amsterdam Schipol, Istanbul Ataruk, London Heathrow, and Singapore Changi Airports.
Will Hatton, the man behind The Broke Backpacker, says that Happn complements his budget-driven, continuous solo travel lifestyle. In many of his destinations, travelers tend to stay in hotels given limited options for hostels, restricting the opportunity for solo transients like him to meet others. But with Happn, It’s easy to find quick connections who are right in his immediate vicinity at the airport—while not require him to travel more by matching him with users in other terminals. On a recent trip to Thailand, for example, Hatton met two women in the departure lounge and wound up reconnecting with these matches throughout his trip through the country.
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Inspired by the film Up in the Air—a story about the romantic nuances of air travel—this app was designed to take the hassle out of air travel, whether you’re juggling multiple itineraries or looking for a gate-side coffee date. With more than five million active users, the travel management app has evolved into a thriving social space for the transient, like a 21st-century hostel common room for everyone from business fliers to the solo female traveler.
It’s got all the nuts and bolts you’d expect from a travel management app: flight alerts, automated check-in, airport maps, and even a game-style interface that shows how your logged travel stacks up against friends and app users. There are also constantly updated tips crowdsourced by the community to help you find little-known spots to catch some sleep or where to find the best airport mimosa at 6 AM. Its most popular feature, however, is its chat function. Tons of travelers report using the app’s “nearby” feature to grab lunch with other users post-flight and then share a cab into a city. Or to kill time on layovers, network for business or pleasure—or a bit of both. The chat function prompts users with simple conversation starters like “let’s grab a coffee?” so breaking the ice is natural and easy. For the more traditional, the app also hosts meet-ups in terminals all over the world, from coffee shops in Dubai to the TWA Lounge in New York City. Best of all it works offline, so you can chat with nearby travelers regardless of WiFi availability.
It may not have up-to-date flight information available or manage your itineraries, but the location-based dating app Bumble has a surprisingly cult-like following of travelers among its 50 million users who swear by its ability to strike airport romance. Bumble has grown from just-another-hookup-app to include features specifically for dating, friendship, and business networking, making it a go-to for solo travelers trying to kill time at the airport or spur connection en route to a new destination.
One user, Taji, got stuck in the airport overnight after missing a flight. Through Bumble, she met a pilot and agreed to a late-night fast food date. As a frequent traveler, Taji’s reconnected with her airport Bumble match three more times since then, meeting for dates in Atlanta, Nashville, and Cabo San Lucas. She’s even netted business success from app-sourced airport relationships. She connected with another user on Bumble at the airport and wound up with a business referral that brought in $40,000 in commission—and the two wound up dating for several months. Another user, travel host Monica Ortega, says the Bumble community is a crucial component to her on-the-go lifestyle. Connections made during layovers turn into “pen pals” from all over, helping her turn business trips into social visits to keep up with her roster of friends made in-transit.