Like a 4 year old Christmas surprise, we got notice we are actually inside a 787 Dreamliner. The FlyerTalk crowd at SMD2 went absolute wild. Christmas comes early this year …
Here’s the action onboard the flight: a FlyerTalk pillow fight at 33,000 feet. At the end, some 150 pillows from coach were headed to first class.
It’s 6:15 AM, and most of the Mega DO is eating breakfast in the Terminal E President’s Club before their 7 AM departure to PHX aboard CO 1905. There’s not much to say about last night’s first Frequent Traveler Awards that hasn’t already been said on FlyerTalk or at the awards site itself, other than that it was an unqualified success and that the after-party ran a little bit late for a 5 AM (in coach), 5:30 (in Randy, Tommy, and “Marty” class) or 5:45 AM (in first) wakeup call.
Check in throughout the day for coverage of the ride in each class, along with reports from US Airways in Phoenix and the Boeing assembly line at Paine Field. The last day of SMD 2010 will no doubt be the longest!
With the day beginning for SMD2, members find themselves being bussed to the days first event. Eyes are bright and the talk is … wonderful.
Seeing as we’ve just touched down in Houston, it’s only fitting to recall that the first airline-sponsored DO was held just five years ago, when Dean Burri (a.k.a cigarman) made a bet with then-Continental CEO Larry Kellner that FlyerTalkers wanted more face time with airline executives and won handily when 300 FTers landed on Kellner’s doorstep. Since then, a growing number of airlines have gotten in on the act — including the second SMD and a large Delta DO the other weekend — followed by hotel chains like Hyatt (which hosted a DO at its Andaz West Hollywood property) and Starwood — one of SMD2′s sponsors.
What changed in the interim? What led airlines to drop their view that FTers were “just a bunch of hot-air whiners,” as Randy Petersen puts it, and actually some of their best customers? Why the explosion in sponsored DOs over the last 12-18 months? (As Southwest has discovered with the AirTran customer leading the charge to save business class aboard that carrier). Obviously, there are many reasons, but one of them has to be the belated realization that they needed a “social media strategy,” and that FlyerTalk itself was their social media strategy.
Lufthansa’s head of social media marketing, Torsten Wingenter, seemed to validate this theory during one of the workshops on social media at Lufthansa’s headquarters Tuesday night. In describing the evolution of the Miles & More program from offering basic awards in the 1990s to creating status benefits and then the exclusivity of HON Circle, he outlined a “Miles & More 2.0″ built around social media. “Our customer changed,” he told the group, “and the question is: ‘should we change as a company?’” Later, he described the airlines’ reluctance succinctly: “Airlines are all about control, because it’s necessary for flight. And social media is to some extent out of control… The customer wants to talk to us at eye-level, not through our traditional channels.”
Enter the Mega DOers, who last year ripped the first iteration of a Miles & More-meets-Foursquare app to shreds. This year’s workshops were calmer, as they talked more broadly about the successes and misses of other airlines online. (The gold standard in America: JetBlue, whose “All You Can Jet” promotion originally started as a tweet. That led to the revelation Lufthansa was considering some form of GroupOn-style group-buying, with implementation as-yet unknown.
The Lufthansa workshops included one devoted to a new ground services app enabling passengers to troubleshoot itineraries with one touch and deal with problems in the air. Another focused on “special moments,” i.e. one-off gifts or onboard experiences designed to reintroduce a measure of surprise and luxury to the comfortable monotony of premium cabins. A few of the 70 or so ideas bandied about included luxury good giveaways (a la the La Prairie products in the amenity kits of Swiss), special country-themed meals, “movie nights” with new releases and popcorn, and so on.
At dinner afterward, Lufthansa and Star executives once again hailed the Mega DOers as knowing more about their product than they do, and in case they didn’t the Lufthansa Group’s other airlines — Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, and bmi — stood by offering cheese, chocolate and goodies to guests. It was the most social media of all.
By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
Ever wonder what Star Alliance’s headquarters looks like?
Many people on the FlyerTalk “Mega Do” frequent-flier trip did, and dozens stopped to snap photos of the Star Alliance map and logo (seen here) at the group’s headquarters near the Frankfurt Airport earlier today.
That came as several dozen FlyerTalk members met with Star Alliance officials today in Frankfurt as the world’s largest frequent-flier group solicited their feedback on potential future products.
Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht was on hand to address the group, thanking them for their loyalty to the alliance and its carriers.
Star Alliance members traveled from as far as Hawaii and Australia for the “Mega Do” event, which is affiliated with FlyerTalk and gave the travelers access to Star’s top executives. The MegaDo trip began in New York and will continue on to Houston, Phoenix and the Seattle area by Friday evening.
“I think the access [to alliance and airline executives] is pretty incredible,” a FlyerTalk member from Australia told me.
Star Alliance officials invited the FlyerTalk members to participate in a series of workshops in which the “FlyerTalkers” where encouraged to give their feedback on products the alliance is considering adding in the future.
Before heading to the airport, a quick trip to CNN who is compiling a story about the Star Mega Do 2 mileage run for an upcoming feature on CNN Money. Here I am with Poppy Harlow, CNN Money anchor on the street talking about the SMD2 and FlyerTalk. (because of the elections here’s in the U.S., they didn’t have the extra crew to send along so they gave me an “official” FlipCamera and I’ll be shooting the mileage run for their story—guess I have to give back their camera). Smile you’re on someone’s (very candid) camera.
Days away from yet another fab events by the committee of flying pleasure, I stopped in on the “official” thread for the “It Really Does Have a Real Name” Do on FlyerTalk and have begun to compile a list of the various names by which this event is being called, referred to and even spelled (Hey, I made a name for myself by learning to pay attention to the fine print).
So, here’s how you and I can refer to this event. Take your pick, we really can’t be wrong:
- StarmegaDO 2010
- StarMegaDo 2010
- Star Alliance Mega DO
- 2010 Star Alliance Mega DO
- Star MegaDO
A few schedule changes throughout the planning mean that our first night together for the trip is an open dinner rather than restricted to only event participants. For folks in New York City on the night of October 31 please feel free to join us at 8:30pm for dinner at Patsy’s on 23rd Street between 8th & 9th Avenues. For more details check out the discussion on FLyerTalk here: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/communitybuzz/1141858-starmegado-2010-kickoff-dinner-everyone-welcome.html.
TSA Secure Flight Data (SFD) rules begin on November 1, so members of FlyerTalk flying along on the Star MegaDo are hustling to become familiar with this new travel requirement. Essentially your ID has to match your ticket name and the airline needs to provide the TSA with you passenger name, your gender and your date-of-birth 72 hours in advance of flight or as soon as you make a reservation (good to know for future travel). The TSA is trying to cut down on the problems that have plagued the No Fly list. What happens is that unless the TSA sends the airline a message that you are “cleared”, you can’t fly and the airline is forbidden to give you a boarding pass or let you on the plane.
These new wrinkle in travel may cause a little anxiety but there are no surprises expected.
I’ve been thinking about what I need to do with this new regulation. My tickets always say Randy Petersen. My passport says Randy Petersen, so all good there. The problem is for some reason my Drivers License says Randall Petersen. So far in all my travels the TSA hasn’t said anything as it is clear its pretty much the same name. I’m not sure what kind of situation is may be to change my Drivers License, guess I’ll find out soon. But, since I’m headed to Germany on the first wave of the MegaDo, I’m good with the passport name ID.
Note: Anyone flying on the MegaDo who is not sure whether they have their Secure Flight Data on file might want to send along the following to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org just to make sure you’re sitting next to me.
Gender: M or F
Date of Birth in DDMMMYY format (for example 31DEC1980):
LUFTHANSA LEADS UNIQUE BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY FOR 200+ FLYERTALK MEMBERS – WebFlyer.com
From operations to maintenance, catering to crew training, Star Alliance carriers Lufthansa, United, Continental and SAS, along with Airbus, open their doors to Frequent Flyers from around the world in this first “Mega DO” celebration
Colorado Springs, Colo. (November 3, 2009) When Lufthansa flight 405 lifts off from Kennedy airport this evening, the passengers onboard will represent one of the largest concentrations of frequent travellers ever to occupy a widebody flight – until the group triples two days later. Some 60 Business Class and 28 Economy Class passengers representing six different frequent flyer programs and collectively holding over 24 million frequent flyer miles will make their way to Germany today as members of the world’s largest online frequent flyer community, FlyerTalk. By the end of their five-day journey, over 200 members from around the world will have come together to celebrate their love of airlines and flying. Dubbed the “Star Alliance Mega DO”, the trip will offer these airline enthusiasts a behind the scenes look at Lufthansa, United, Continental and SAS, as well as an Airbus A380 being assembled in Toulouse. It will take members away from the familiar setting of an aircraft cabin to meet with executives from the world’s leading international airlines, and explore their worlds from a different angle – and altitude.
“While FlyerTalk has provided its members with other unique experiences, the breadth and scope of the Star Alliance Mega DO is unprecedented in terms of the number of participants as well as the exclusive access afforded by our Star Alliance hosts,” said FlyerTalk founder Randy Petersen. “At a time when the airline industry as a whole is struggling, this event represents a $300,000 cash injection under which our members, and the airlines involved, get to understand one another better and just plain have fun.”
The Mega DO begins the morning of Tuesday, November 3rd with a group of FlyerTalk members touring the United Airlines operations facilities at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Participants will later fly to Newark, where a larger group will assemble as Continental, the newest Star Alliance member, showcases its Chelsea Kitchens and operations tower. Next is a transfer to JFK Airport for a send-off party at Lufthansa’s new three-tier flagship lounge.
“We’re honored to host such an extraordinary event together with our Star Alliance and industry partners,” said Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Chairman and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, who will welcome the 200+ members in Frankfurt. “We have great respect for our frequent flyers and high admiration for the FlyerTalk community’s unparalleled understanding of the airline industry. We especially look forward to welcoming Continental’s frequent flyers for the first time to introduce them to our Lufthansa world.”
After LH 405 touches down in Frankfurt, the group will undergo cabin crew training in Lufthansa Flight Training’s aircraft simulators, to prepare FlyerTalk moderators for their role in the next day’s events. In the evening, Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht and Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Vice President of Marketing, Hubert Frach, will co-host a retro- themed dinner that commemorates the heyday of commercial aviation.
Day three finds the FlyerTalkers jetting around Europe aboard a chartered Boeing 757- 300 Condor plane aptly painted “Wir lieben fliegen” (“We Love to Fly”). FlyerTalk leader Randy Petersen and over a dozen moderators from FlyerTalk airline forums, including Lufthansa forum moderator and DO co-host Oliver Majumdar, will put the previous day’s training to the test when they serve as cabin crew and/or pursers onboard the aircraft. First stop, Oslo, Norway, where 35 additional FlyerTalkers will join the trip beginning with breakfast hosted by SAS executives in the airline’s hangar. Immediately afterwards, the charter flight will depart for Toulouse, France with a full complement of 230 FlyerTalkers and international media onboard.
“Passengers can look forward to an onboard experience unlike any before,” said Tommy Danielsen, FlyerTalk’s SAS moderator and one of the trip’s three co-hosts. Upon arrival in Toulouse, Airbus will provide tours of its A380 Final Assembly Line and Mock-up Center. Guests will get a peek at one of Lufthansa’s first A380s in production. The group’s whirlwind day concludes with a return flight to Frankfurt and evening reception at Lufthansa’s award-winning Tower lounge, offering the ultimate view over the apron.
On the final day of programming, Friday, November 6th, Lufthansa and its partners will open their doors for a full day of tours and information exchange. Participants will take part in focus groups hosted by Lufthansa to debut an exclusive meta-community mobile phone application that will enable the real-time exchange of information and tips, including a location-based feature facilitating spontaneous meet-ups with fellow FlyerTalkers while in transit. To conclude the DO, members will overnight at Lufthansa’s new training and conference center, which is located outside Frankfurt in the town of Seeheim, where they will partake in the ultimate insider experience – mingling with hundreds of Lufthansa staff from around the world.
One of the world’s largest and most prestigious airlines, Lufthansa flies to 191 destinations in 78 countries, with hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, and with its recent acquisition of Austrian Airlines and SWISS – Vienna and Zurich. From its 21 North American gateways, Lufthansa serves over 400 destinations in more than 100 countries. An industry innovator, the airline has long been committed to environmental care and sustainability, operating the most technically-advanced and fuel-efficient fleet in the world. Its long-haul fleet to and from North America includes the Boeing 747-400, as well as the Airbus A340-600, A340-300 and A330-300. Currently, Lufthansa has 170 aircraft worth more than $20 billion on order. It will be the largest European operator of the A380 and is also the launch customer for the new Boeing 747-8, the industries’ two most fuel-efficient passenger aircraft. Known for its premium services, Lufthansa is currently investing $190 million in building new or upgraded lounge facilities across it worldwide network. In January 2009, it opened a three-story, U.S. flagship lounge at JFK Airport. For more information or reservations, visit http://www.lh.com.
With more than 170,000 members and nearly 13 million comments posted, FlyerTalk is the world’s largest frequent traveler community. Started by frequent traveler guru and publisher of InsideFlyer magazine, Randy Petersen, the interactive online community has over 150 forums on all things travel – from individual airlines to airports, dining, destinations, earning and redeeming miles, solving problems, and more. For the latest updates from the StarMegaDo, visit the official event website and blog at: http://www.starmegado.com, where pictures and video from the event will be posted. You can also follow the conversation in the Lufthansa Miles & More forum online at http://www.flyertalk.com or on Twitter under the DO’s official hashtag, #starmegado.
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Congrats to ConciergeMike for winning this great opportunity from Randy!
Founder of Top Online Travel Community to Select One Person For
Real ‘Up in the Air’ Experience
Recipient Will Join 300 Of The World’s Top Frequent Flyers On Unique European Trip
Colorado Springs, Colo. (PRWEB) October 9, 2009 — Imagine an online community consisting of hundreds of thousands of George Clooney’s and Vera Farmiga’s discussing frequent flyer miles and travel all day every day and you will get a pretty good idea of what FlyerTalk.com, the world’s most popular frequent flyer community, is all about.
FlyerTalk’s founder, Randy Petersen, announced today an opportunity for one member of the community to enjoy a true frequent flyer “Up In The Air” experience, as popularized in the upcoming film. The lucky recipient will be flown from their hometown to Frankfurt, Germany, where they will join 300 of the world’s most frequent flyers for a host of events, including:
“This is another in a years-long line of amazing events entirely organized by the members of FlyerTalk,” said Petersen. “I’m proud to have founded this community, but I’m even more proud to call myself a member, and am glad to have this opportunity to give back and allow one more person to experience all that FlyerTalk has to offer, on me.”
The event, dubbed by FlyerTalk members as the Star Alliance Mega DO, is scheduled Nov. 3-6 and will also include a number of social events with executives from United, Continental, SAS, and Lufthansa.
Much like the characters in the soon-to-be-released movie, “Up In The Air”, the participants in this event are all frequent flyer aficionados. Though FlyerTalk is primarily an online community, members organize hundreds of in-person events each year all around the world. While most FlyerTalk events are smaller affairs, some, like this Star Alliance Mega DO, are actively supported by the airline, hotel, and/or credit card programs.
“FlyerTalk is fortunate to be one of the first and only online travel communities where representatives from the industry participate directly and interact with members,” said Petersen. “The frequent flyers learn from the industry reps, and vice versa, and both enjoy contributing to and participating in these fun events. After all, at the end of the day it’s all about making the most of travel, and of life.”
Petersen’s announcement was made on FlyerTalk, of course - http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/communitybuzz/1001243-my-guest-fly-free-star-alliance-megado.html
FlyerTalk.com is a product of Frequent Flyer Services and is included in the award-winning Frequent Flyer Network of sites, which also includes BoardingArea.com, InsideFlyer.com, SeatExpert.com, and WebFlyer.com. Frequent Flyer Services conceives, develops and markets products and services with the frequent flyer in mind and is the largest publisher of frequent flyer information in the world. Frequent Flyer Services is a privately owned company located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.