Networking Etiquette When Traveling In Premium Cabins – How Much Is Too Much?

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I came across a paid (placed) advertisement of ANA last night that highlighted how a ‘professional networker’ uses his flights in Business Class to find new connections or as I say ‘prey’.


It struck me as slightly over the top how someone could try every angle available to him just to talk to people traveling in Business Class.

Usually when I travel I prefer to stick to myself and choose single seats whenever available. Maybe I’m the exception to the rule but I never observed people in premium cabins to be overly in the mood to communicate with other travelers in depth about their job and life.

You can find the ad which has been placed with CNBC here (the disclaimer says it’s paid for by ANA).

In-flight networking is a growing trend among the business set. How does traveling make it different from networking on terra firma? All Nippon Airways (ANA) invited Karl Chong – angel investor, co-founder of Groupon (Singapore) and a seasoned networker – to discern the differences. …

The best time for networking is the hour or two before the captain pilots you back to firm ground. The cabin lights are fully turned on and you’ve just finished a wonderful meal. People are awake and generally happy at this time. Case in point, my neighbor on the flight to Tokyo.

He was sound asleep most of the flight, no surprise considering that the business class seats fully recline to become a flat bed. It was only when we were descending that he was finally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I jumped at the opportunity to small talk. I casually remarked that he looked like he had a great sleep. That kick started a pleasant chat, and I quickly discovered he was a Greek commodities trader, traveling to Japan to see clients. …

The airport lounge is a natural networking hotspot. People of different nationalities from all walks of life congregate here. It’s where the weary traveler comes to find food, shower and rest – fertile hunting ground for the networker.

I stepped into the ANA Lounge at Haneda Airport just after 6 a.m. The lounge was relatively quiet at this time of day, so I was lucky that a fellow traveler decided to take the seat right next to me. The relaxing mood played to my advantage and I struck up a conversation with the man. He didn’t seem too keen on the small talk at first, but opened up once I shifted the topic to business. …

These are just a few examples the gentleman gives of how he ‘networks’ with fellow travelers. To me it sounds very much like he is pushing himself onto people and even has a game plan how to accomplish this. His strategy must work out for him somehow, the question is what do you get out of it?

For me, a large benefit of traveling in First and Business Class is that I’m able to relax and don’t actually have to interact and be courteous with people, which you can’t avoid to a certain degree when traveling in Economy Class. It would drive me nuts if I’d tip toe around the cabin the entire flight hunting for my next networking prey.

Maybe in reality the guy comes across much different than it’s portrayed in this article where it appears like somewhat creepy and uncomfortable.


Yes it’s good to have contacts and I also appreciate a nice chat with someone if the occasion arises that you get to talk to each other. Over the past 12 years, I met three people on planes who I became very good friends with to this day, it was purely a chance meeting and there was no specific intent from either of us when starting the conversation.

We’d like to know your opinion: Are you going out of your way to chat people up when flying Business Class or you prefer to keep to yourself? Leave some comments below!

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  • ian smith

    Biggest problem in world today is people have either forgotten or no longer capable of socialising face to face with each other anymore. I love to have a chat on a plane and it is far better than listening to the pathetic stuff that is churned out of those smart phones on most of my long haul flights.

    • I just had a chat the other week on a Finnair flight from London to Helsinki with someone who was working on a loyalty program platform and had worked on this field previously as well.

  • Joe

    I immediately put on headphones to keep away from the “talker”. I already have a wife.
    I want to relax on the plane since I have to work before and after the flight.

  • BenniHK

    I m fine to talk with some interesting person on topics I like (which I just did on a qantas flight… In econ). Just “why not” when I feel comfortable to do so?

  • Flyboy

    Is this the same as trying to chat someone up … Has anyone else had that experience?

  • Popo_1965

    If you want to talk, talk. If you don’t, tell him you sell incurances 🙂

  • Harry Webb

    It depends entirely on now loud the conversation is. Other people are nearby, and do not want to be distracted or annoyed by other people’s conversation.

    A long flight is not the place to demonstrate that you are entirely inconsiderate of others.

  • David Crane

    As Popo_1965 noted no one wants to talk to an insurance salesperson. I’m in the business that lots of people want to talk about. I sell very fine wine. I never ask people what business they are in. I don’t have to – they will tell me. And I never tell people what business I’m in. I don’t have to – they will ask me. I talk about my business all day, every day so, unless the person is engaging, I usually respond, “I’m in the business people don’t talk about.” It’s fun to see the response from knowing looks to curiosity to disapproval.

    • Harry Webb

      You have ignored the fact that most people are not in “business”, and would dearly love not to be seated next to a salesman.

      However fine the wine is, you’re still a salesman.

      • David Crane

        Harry: nothing happens until somebody sells somebody something

  • Adrian

    I prefer just to Relax and not talking or listening to anything 🙂 Noisecancelling headphones are just great for this 🙂 They keep talkers away …

  • Elizabeth

    I always Enjoy conversations* with my Seat-mate(s) in First, although I am Also aware of, and sensitive to, the subtleties I observe re:their interest in — or lack thereof — of carrying on any type of conversation. I Enjoy every Flight I’m on, although am also aware that not everyone feels this way…

    * & my conversations are never for “networking” purposes– just Friendly convos, although I have also kept in touch with some of the people I’ve met on Flights.