Twenty-hour hours after departing Paine Field, it’s safe to say Star Mega DO2 is over. The charter has returned to Houston; the FlyerTalk moderators are in Seattle, and everyone else is scattering to the winds. (I finally had a chance this week to earn some miles on Delta. Yes, I’m that guy.)
On behalf of the official blogger-in-residence, I’d like to thank Tommy, Oliver and Reb for having me, Seth for writing the funny posts while I wrote the boring ones, everyone who came along for the journey, and all of our sponsors (especially Starwood, which prepared an awesome meal for 200 exhausted, euphoric fliers). I’ll see you all at the next Frequent Traveler Awards, if not before, and let the countdown to Star Mega DO3 begin… now.
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!
Finally, three-and-a-half days into the DO, we’re at full strength, some 180-strong. We’re boarding buses at the moment en route to meeting the new United Airlines managment team, and rumor has it there’s a pool party on tap for the afternoon. Tonight, of course, is the first Frequent Traveler Awards, which are sold out. This year’s Mega DO is finally Mega again.
When I wrapped up last year’s Star Mega DO by (quite legally) crashing the Lufthansa First Class Terminal along with a small gaggle of FlyerTalkers, I figured it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But here we are a year later, and I’ve been back not once, but twice in a span of less than 12 hours. As mentioned in a previous post, Lufthansa took the unprecedented step of busing the entire roster of this year’s Mega DO to the FCT for a nightcap after dinner — the first and only time in its history that non-HONs and non-ticketed first class passengers have ever been allowed inside. This was especially impressive considering the terminal is technically airside, which meant stationing personnel at every exit to keep the entire terminal in lockdown.
So what did you miss? First, the basics: the FCT is a standalone building, built at a cost of $43 million. The best-known feature is the fleet of Porches, BMWs and Mercedes downstairs waiting to whisk you to your flight. (This morning, I settled for a Mercedes van; Randy hitched a ride in a Porsche. “I can cross that off my frequent traveler bucket list,” he said.) Equally famous in FT circles are the rubber duckies in the bathtub, which had been removed for the evening to keep people like me (and Will Steele) from making off with them.
I’ll leave it to others to debate which airline has the best lounges, or which is the single best lounge in the world, but the FCT has to be in the uppermost tier with the Virgin Clubhouse at LHR and the Wing and the Pier at HKG. (If anyone would like to argue why their favorite is better, I’d love to see it in the comments.) One myth that was shattered for me was the fact that the pastries — which years ago on a quick press tour I’d been told were flown in fresh on the first flight from Vienna each morning — were more or less baked locally, with only a handful of delicacies being flown in from Austria. (Why shouldn’t the FCT be hand-stocked with air-freighted delicacies?)
On Tuesday night, the restaurant was closed and the bar (which prides itself on its single malt selection, delighting Tommy) was limited to a small selection of scotches, cognac and grappa, but a small expedition the next morning (thanks to our HON chaperones) sampled breakfast, toasted with Tattinger, and did the things “air warriors” do in these situations: enjoyed our good fortune.
Today in the Sky schedule update
By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
I’m traveling this week with the “Star Mega Do,” a FlyerTalk-affiliated gathering that includes some of the most dedicated frequent-flier enthusiasts from across the globe. In this particular case, the trip is focused on the Star Alliance carriers.
Today I’m coming to you from Frankfurt, where I’ll be meeting with both Lufthansa and Star Alliance officials later today.
On Wednesday, the group changes location to Houston, where I’ll be on hand to cover the first annual Frequent Traveler Awards ceremony on Thursday. Also while I’m in Houston, I hope to get time with some of United’s executives for an update of what’s going on at United and Continental.
continued: Today in the Sky schedule update – USATODAY.com.
Following on the recent announcement of the itinerary, we are pleased to announce that the few lose ends have been tied up and that we have finalized the pricing for the event. Here’s a recap of the schedule:
We meet at JFK airport for a snack and drinks to board LH 405 (dep 22.45) to fly to FRA
[or for those who want to try LX: we board LX 15 (dep. 20.55) to fly to ZRH and then LX 1072 to FRA]
[or for those who want to try OS: we board OS 88 (dep. 18.55) to fly to VIE and then LH 1235 to FRA]
We arrive at FRA, the participants starting the SMD2 in Europe join us from this point
Evening reception at 19.00: TBD, we surely will make it an event similar to last year
We board LH440 (dep. 10.40) to fly to Houston (arr. 15.30)
Evening reception at 19.00: will be a quiet event, to allow people to recover from the past flights. Participants starting the SMD2 for the domestic US portion join us from this point
Continental day: CO will host us in IAH.
Evening: we take a break from SMD 2 to join the Frequent Traveler Awards event in Houston
8.00 am Charter flight in IAH to fly to PHX
The charter will be operated by a Continental 757-300 with 24 F and 192 Y config. We have the option to add a 737-900 with 20F/153Y or bigger if the booking situation demands it.
On arrival in PHX we join US Airways for an event.
~12.30 pm: We depart PHX for PAE
TBD pm: we arrive in Paine Field at Boeing to tour the facilities and visit LH’s latest aircraft type, the 748i
Participants start their their journey home:
Europeans take LH 491 (dep. 15.45) back to FRA,
Domestic participants take the CO plane back to IAH at 9 am. This is optional, you will have the option to request the additional leg if you desire. This will a be no-frill standard catering flight back as if you are flying a regular commercial flight; if there is overwhelming demand seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are two cost components that we have details available for at this time, the TATL flights originating in the USA and the charter flights.
For the TATL there are three Star Alliance carriers offering discounted rates for us, Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian:
- LH JFK-FRA-IAH: 2748US$++ (3128$ a.i.) in Z, 320US$++ (700$ a.i.) in W/S
- LX JFK-xZRH-FRA: 1566$ a.i. in Business, 341$ a.i. in Economy (P)
- OS JFK-xVIE-FRA: 1369$++ in Business (J)
For the charter flights there are two classes of service available, First and Coach. In addition to the bigger seats the first class cabin will include premium catering and booze, though the back of the plane will hardly be a dry experience. The pricing will be: $1,499 for first class and $699 for economy.
The charter price includes transportation and service from/to IAH-PHX-PAE. If you choose to attend the event starting in PHX, no discount will be available. As mentioned above the repositioning leg back to the location where the charter came from is optional (so PAE-IAH on the morning of the next day is included in the price, but you don’t have to take it and can stop in PAE/SEA). Also included in the price are all the meals noted above, ground transfers, tours and more.
Sign up will be coming soon, just as soon as we have a booking system in place.