You may recall that while the majority of Mega DO participants flew Lufthansa JFK-FRA, a handful opted to transit via ZRH, VIE (and in one case, GVA) on LX and OS. How were their flights? I have yet to meet either of the pair who opted for OS, but I do have a pair of trip reports from LX. After dropping $2,800 on a refundable gate pass to enter Lufthansa Senator Lounge at JFK, Pat hopped the AirTrain from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4. Upon entering the Swiss lounge (which is land-side), he was greeted by the head of U.S. PR, who took him on a tour of the first class lounge and then helped clear an entire lane of security for him to pass through. The flight to ZRH in business class was outfitted with fully lie-flat beds, and upon arrival he was taken to lunch by the head of operations, which blew Pat away. After lunch, he was driven to his plane. “I have to call about my miles because they never scanned my ticket!” he says.
Meanwhile, Marty booked himself on JFK-GVA-FRA and apparently fell through the cracks, as Swiss was unaware of his presence. So what is it like when they don’t roll out the red carpet? “The Swiss flight was great… in the air,” said Marty, obviously hesitating. “The lounge was better than advertised, and the service was fantastic. But there was a slight delay in Geneva, and when I got here, they had decided to send my luggage on to Rome. So I was an hour late at baggage claim while retrieved my luggage from the Rome flight, and by then the Welcome lounge was closed.” The lesson, as always: being on the official roster of a Star Mega DO makes every flight better.
JFK (40°38’23″N 73°46’44″W)
FRA (50°01’35″N 8°32’35″E)50.5° (NE)3855 mi
IAH (29°59’04″N 95°20’29″W)299.8° (NW)5232 mi
PHX (33°26’03″N 112°00’42″W)287.9° (W)1009 mi
PAE (47°54’25″N 122°16’54″W)334.9° (NW)1133 mi
Total:11229 statute miles
StarMegaDo 2010 – New York JFK to Frankfurt FRA on a Boeing 747-400
Join StarMegaDo as we fly from JFK to Frankfurt in the first hop of the transatlantic aerophilic adventure.
As we boarded the flight out of JFK last night we were treated to a bit of good and bad news. The flight time would be only 6:20 across to Frankfurt. Less sleep, but an early arrival so more lounge time once we did arrive. Win some, lose some.
The flight was reasonably pleasant and included a couple attempts (mostly unsuccessful) by Tommy to convince folks on board that Fernet Branca is not the devil’s elixir. I am decidedly in the not convinced camp but that didn’t stop me from joining the group in a toast or two.
Upon arrival we headed down to the Welcome Lounge in Frankfurt airport. With a few dozen showers and a pretty nice breakfast spread, the lounge is a great place to finish up a flight and to start your day in Frankfurt. Keeping with my personal time-honored tradition for fighting jetlag, I poured myself a beer from the tap and headed down to the shower room for a refreshing soak.
Back upstairs for another beer, some bacon & eggs and a fresh pretzel and I’m ready to go out and have a great StarMegaDo day!
“Which would you prefer: the smiling flight attendant who brings you food you don’t really like, or the unsmiling flight attendant who brings exactly what you want?”
“There’s no such thing as no sex or flying after sixty. There’s just less of the former and more of the latter.”
“We’re glad they’re adding an AARP section to the DO this year.”
(To Greg, who wore pajamas on the flight) “Do you have your teddy bear?”
“Is the purser going to tuck you in later?”
(In the LH Welcome Lounge, the plum sauce has been labeled “Plump sauce.”) “I would stay away from that if I were you.”
This past Friday night the itinerary for the 2010 Star Mega Do was announced at a party in Marina del Ray, California. The room was packed with veterans from the 2009 edition and other FlyerTalkers who all wanted to be involved in the event as well as folks looking for a good party out on the West coast. Some of the photos suggest there were upwards of 50 folks crowded into the room for the event; the bar tab suggests even more. Either way, this luck group was the first to hear the official news.
And now that I’ve recovered from the rather vicious hangover (Marty, I’m gonna get even!) here’s the itinerary for everyone else to chew on:
Monday, November 1
JFK-FRA: We expect that to be on the LH A380 though the aircraft is not yet confirmed to be on that route.
Tuesday, November 2
Arrive FRA. Party with *A and LH in FRA.
*For folks starting in Europe you will be invited to join on Tuesday evening
Wednesday, November 3
FRA-IAH. Arrive IAH and dinner with CO.
*For folks who want to only do the USA part of the event you’ll be joining us in IAH for the dinner or tomorrow morning for the tours.
Thursday, November 4
CO tours in IAH.
Thursday, November 4 – Evening
The First Annual Frequent Traveler Awards!
Built on the legacy of The Freddies, the FT Awards will allow the community to honor the loyalty programs that make everything we do just a bit more fun.
Friday, November 5
IAH-PHX: Meet with US Airways in PHX
PHX-PAE: Fly in to an airport that doesn’t really see traditional commercial service (cool new dot/line) and go on a special tour of the Boeing factory where the 747-8i is being built.
Party in Seattle area Friday night
Saturday, November 6
Charter flight back to either Chicago or Houston, depending on which aircraft we end up chartering.
We thought we had figured out the details of which aircraft we’d be using for the charter but we had a last minute entrant from another carrier that is interested in providing us with that service. So we are still working out the details and hope to have more specific pricing and an answer to which aircraft we’ll be using (747, MD-11 or 753/73E/738s) in the very near future.
Regarding pricing of the event, we expect that the charter price point will be at or below last year’s price. Depending on the aircraft selected there will be a mix of F, C, E+ and E- available. The TATL flights will be about the same price in Y (~$600) and will be more expensive in C (~$3000).
We’re getting a great rate with Starwood for the hotels along the way and there will likely be a Fast Track promo for status associated with it.
I’m pretty sure that the Lufthansa folks have never had over 100 passengers show up for the Star Gold boarding line. Yet there we all were, a hundred of us, lined up waiting to board Lufthansa’s flight 405 from New York’s JFK airport to Frankfurt. And we had a ridiculously good time.
We filled up the plane. Literally. We had almost all the seats in business class and a whole bunch in coach, too. The plane was 100% full, plus a couple extras. The Lufthansa employees from NYC coming over to Frankfurt for the event had to ride jump seat rather than even getting seats in coach. There were literally no seats left on the plane.
The good news is that the seats we filled were done so with great fun and excitement. The bad news, such as it was, is that the tailwinds on our flight meant that total flight time was just a hair over 6 hours to get to Germany. That’s really fast. So fast that full enjoyment of the meal service and the Business Class experience and also getting some sleep is really hard to do. Almost impossible, really. But that didn’t stop us from trying.
Here are a few photos from in flight:
And then, before I really had time to understand just how much fun I was having, we were less than 4 hours from arrival in Frankfurt!
Through some means that I have yet to fully understand, one of the folks in our group got access to the flight deck and rode up there for the landing in Frankfurt. Seriously. And he’s given me copies of the photos to prove it!
Yeah, that was our plane coming in for a landing in Frankfurt. Finally, a shot that is often repeated but always enjoyable upon arrival in Frankfurt, the reflection of the plane:
More tours, lounges and incredible fun later in the day on arrival. Those posts to come eventually. Right now I’m too tired and drunk for my fingers to really work any more.
Lufthansa is quite proud of their new flagship lounge facilities at New York’s JFK airport and rightfully so. The lounges are quite impressive. And it really is multiple lounges. Through just one one door there are actually three lounges in increasing levels of quality as you ascend the internal stairs.
The Business lounge at concourse level offers up a large space, phenomenal views of the apron and some pretty good food, along with beer and wine. It is the largest of the three areas and is where our group was based for the evening.
Next level up is the Senator lounge, reserved for Star Alliance Gold elites. It is even nicer, with additional meal options and a full bar. It is quite nice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
The top floor is the First Class lounge, with even more booze choices and even more exclusive access. No photos were taken (by me) up there.
There were a few speeches made by folks from Lufthansa and our hosts and then much socializing. With lots of champagne consumed. It actually appeared a bit as though we overwhelmed the staff there but they took it in stride and were were cared for phenomenally well. Did I mention the lots of champagne?
And then our plane arrived. She’s a beauty. Non-stop Boeing 747-400 service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport to Frankfurt Main. The flight wasn’t long enough to truly enjoy the fantastic Lufthansa service that we received, but we did our best.
Oh, and we we actually beat the Van Wyck Expressway. Seriously. We made it from Newark Airport to JFK in incredibly good time.
… with a splash of Continental as well! Thanks to XYZZY for zipping this photo out during the taxi of the Mega DO Express to FRA.
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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