I don’t know who started it or why. But someone did, so as we started our descent into Paine Field on Friday a full-fledged pillow fight broke out. Suddenly the cabin was filled with pillows (and a blanket or two) flying back and forth. Quite entertaining to watch and participate in:
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.
Matt Cawby at the Paine Field blog has granted us permission to repost his photos of our arrival at PAE Friday, which we have gratefully done:
When I saw the original itinerary for today’s festivities I thought that landing at Paine Field in Everett, Washington was going to be the highlight of the day. It is an airport that doesn’t see commercial airline service and flying in on a jet is quite rare unless you’re a Boeing test pilot. As we were panicking trying to find the driver of the luggage delivery company (that’s a whole ‘nother story) I was also chatting with one of the Boeing organizers and she let me in on an additional detail of the itinerary: We were going to be inside one of the 787 Dreamliner test aircraft.
Boeing has taken a few 787s on tour over the past few months but they don’t really let just anyone on board to look around. Indeed, several of our tour guides today noted that they had never been inside one either. Still, somehow we managed to convince them that it was a good idea for us to get inside. And they were incredibly gracious in allowing us to do so.
We bounded up the stairs and into the cabin and, in that moment, became part of the record books. We were the first non-industry folks to be inside the plane. With our near 200 participants touring the aircraft we also significantly increased the total number of people who have toured it in general. We didn’t have full run of the aircraft like we did on the A380 in Frankfurt, mostly because it is still a test aircraft and still mostly being used for making sure that things are really working as expected so that the planes can be delivered. It wasn’t even fully fitted with an interior.
It did have enough bits installed, however, to make our walk-through truly memorable. We got to poke our heads into the cockpit. It is all glass and huge digital screens rather than traditional instruments. Quite a change from the Bonanza I was sitting in earlier in the day during my Phoenix visit. The whole main console is LCD screens and the electronic flight deck is integrated into the cockpit rather than in huge binders. The cockpit is also rather spacious, with a couple jump-seats and standing room for another person or two.
The crew rest area – installed into the space above the passenger cabin – was surprisingly large. I suppose had they cut it to three beds from two it would have been incredibly cramped. Instead they appeared quite spacious and comfortable.
The overhead bins are apparently spec’d to hold four bags each at 12”x16”x25”. That’s HUGE. It didn’t look to me like the 25” dimension was real but I didn’t have a tape measure handy and they wouldn’t let me crawl up in one to check it out (the guy running that part actually noted that he’d been warned about me and overhead bins when I asked about that).
Perhaps most significant was that the aircraft was fitted with a few rows of economy class seating in a 3-3-3 configuration. There has been much concern in the frequent flyer community as most airlines announced their intentions to go 9-abreast on the 787 rather than the 8-abreast that Boeing originally claimed the aircraft was designed for. Sitting in the seats today I was pleasantly surprised by just how comfortable the cabin felt. I know that there’s a lot more to it than just seat width, but things might not be quite as dire as feared.
And that was it. The visit was short – only about 15-20 minutes – but incredibly fun and truly an amazing experience. And yet another first for StarMegaDo.
No photos (from us) because of corporate security policies but their folks took a few of our group that I hope to post soon.
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!
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.