What You Missed (Or Only Remember Hazily) Last Year

With less than a week to go until the trans-Atlantic kick off of Star Mega DO, first-timers may be wondering exactly what they’re in for. So for your sake, here are links to two accounts from last year’s trip.

Scott McCartney’s “A Travel Junkie Field Trip,” published in the The Wall Street Journal offered a nice overview:

The Mega DO—which started in Chicago—gave the road warriors an education in how airlines work. At each stop, airline executives greeted them with singers and dancers, mechanics and pilots, ample food and drink and tours of engine shops, training facilities, airplanes and hangars.

Like kids on a school field trip, they filed through crew briefing rooms at UAL Corp.’s United Airlines in Chicago, quizzed maintenance experts at Continental’s engine shop in Newark, practiced flight-attendant skills at Lufthansa’s training center in Frankfurt and were photographed sitting in various aircraft cockpits opened for them at hangars.

They asked airline workers about snow plows at O’Hare, bird-strikes in engines, access to airport clubs and the environmental impact of deicing fluid. They learned how airlines cycle engines and airplanes through scheduled maintenance, how company workers assign gates and direct aircraft movement around terminals, how pilots prepare for long journeys and how Airbus puts together its giant double-deck plane.

My own “Triumph of the Air Warriors,” published in (American) Condé Nast Traveler, tried to be more philosophical about what it all means, as seen through the prism of Up in the Air:

“If you hate flying, you’re not doing it right,” says George Clooney as Ryan Bingham. Doing it right demands miles. Garner enough to hit the airlines’ targets and you’ll receive elite status with a bevy of perks: priority boarding, waived baggage fees, mileage bonuses, private lounge access.

They’re hackers, really, cracking fare codes and exploiting seams until they’ve twisted the airlines’ own bewildering rules inside out. FlyerTalkers get a kick out of this, and brag among themselves. They use the same freely available tools as travel agents do, peel off the lids of the reservations systems and peer inside, taking detailed notes on ways to fly well and practically for free.

At this point, you might be forgiven for wondering what these people do all day to have this much time on their hands. They are consultants, salesmen, CEOs. The old-school air warriors lived in hotels and first-class lounges—work demanded it. FlyerTalkers are a different breed, masters and captains of their own lives. Rebelling against being herded like sheep, they banded together to assert their flier rights—exploiting loopholes, pooling information, leading a jailbreak from coach to the front of the plane. They made the airlines sit up and return some of their passenger dignity.

The media (including me) is tagging along again this year. Who will be immortalized on the emergency slide this time around?

Get Adobe Flash player