CO Flight 1905 Arriving at Paine Field

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:

A Mega itinerary for a Mega Do!

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.

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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

Charter flight!
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.

More photos from the Airbus factory tour

Just a few more photos from inside the final assembly building at Toulouse…

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Plane spotting at Toulouse

What great fun to be at the factory and see the planes from so many carriers all in one place.  And there were plenty to be seen.  Check out some of these beauties:

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This is the plane we were touring in all day:

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Not all the planes on the ground were Airbus, but they were still cool:

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Some of the bigger birds on display:

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Of course, the main focus of the visit to Toulouse was plane spotting of a different kind.  We were there to tour the A380 final assembly line.  We did, and it was amazing.  More stories, video and photos from that soon.

Inspecting the crew rest bunks

As a group of mostly very frequent flyers, getting to go behind the scenes and see the other side of the operations is always interesting.  After all, we’ spend plenty of time on the customer side.  Hitting up the crew side is the next step in the adventure.  So when Lufthansa opened up access to their Technik facility – their maintenance operations – scores of our group showed up to take part. 

Among other things, the group wandered through a couple planes that were in for their regular maintenance checks.  These planes are essentially fully disassembled and then put back together, with various bits replaced and refreshed along the way.  One of the more popular scenes during these tours were the visits to the crew rest bunks.  They may not be glamorous, but they are fully flat, quiet and dark.  Not too shabby.  I could travel like that.  Then again, I’ve been in an overhead bin and didn’t think it was all that bad. 

Anyways, here are pictures of some folks having fun in the crew rest bunks:

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Fun ‘n’ snow in Oslo

First stop on the trip was Oslo to pick up a few more participants and to meet the folks from SAS who were kind enough to host us.  They provided all the traditional Norwegian fare for us, including snow on arrival.  Walking off the plane in a Hawaiian shirt and making a snow ball was quite enjoyable.

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There was traditional music and dance:

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And there were a bunch of displays set up around the hangar.  The Air Force had a demo of their med-evac procedures on display and we were able to walk around one of the planes, including in the engine cowls and the landing gear areas.  Very cool stuff.

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There was a presentation from the folks at SAS about their airline and the Euro Bonus program as well as two singing performances by one of the flight attendants, including one where the wing of the plane was used as the stage.  Video of that should be forthcoming shortly.

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And then there was the biggest surprise of the morning’s events.  The main organizer, Tommy, actually got to leave the plane via the evacuation slide:

Some others hopped on afterwards, but I am quite certain it wasn’t the same.

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And then our stay in Oslo was complete.  It was off to the de-icing pad and our departure for Toulouse.  Another exciting flight and an even more exciting arrival!

Getting an early start to the day

I’ve never seen so many people quite so happy to be boarding a plane at 5:15 in the morning.  And yet there we all were.  Nearly 200 mostly awake and in a remote gate area of Frankfurt International Airport, ready to climb on board the first of three flights in our chartered Condor Boeing 757-300.

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Plenty of sleepy eyes in the gate area but once boarding started most folks perked up in a hurry.

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Maybe it was that we were giving out lies in conjunction with the first flight’s theme – a Continental Airlines flight from Hawai’i to Los Angeles in the 70s.  Or maybe it was because the excitement all finally just bubbled over.  Who really cares why…folks were downright giddy and it showed in their faces and behavior.

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And the party never stopped.  It would be days before things calmed down.  But it is still before 6am on a Thursday morning in this story and we haven’t even taken off for our first stop, Oslo and a breakfast party with SAS.

What amazing generosity

3M1O0303-1There were a ton of different things going on throughout the week designed to make sure that our group had a great time.  One of the highlights, however, was the charity auction that was held during the trip.  After having each spent a whole bunch of cash on getting to Frankfurt and in booking seats on the charter flights, I don’t think that anyone really expected the level of giving that was seen.

Even before the raffle started the charity was apparent.  Members from around the globe contributed a variety of prizes, ranging from airline amenity kits and sleeper suits to Windows 7 Ultimate.  We had signed copies of the final United 737 flight manifests and a bunch of autographed hats from Captain Denny.  And some cool electronics, too.

Raffle tickets were purchased in US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds and Canadian Dollars.  And there were a LOT of tickets purchased.  Several hundred tickets were sold and we raised almost USD $5,000!  Handing out the prizes was great fun, as was announcing where the money raised is going to be distributed.

Part of the money is being contributed to FlyerTalk’s kiva.org lending team.  That group has lent out over $15,000 thus far and the donations from our trip should have that pushed up over $20,000 and beyond in a hurry.

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The other part of the money is being donated to the Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund.  Captain Dahl was a pilot with United airlines and was working as the Captain of flight 93 on September 11th.  He loved to fly from a very young age and was able to make a career out of it in part due to a scholarship he received to attend flight school.  In his memory family and friends have established the fund to provide similar scholarships out to aspiring pilots.  Give our love for travel we felt that it was an appropriate way to help further our ability to have this fun.

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What a pretty plane!

Just a couple photos here of the gorgeous Condor 757-300 that we chartered for the day.  Good times!

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Double-decker excitement

The A380 is simply huge.  There is no other way to describe it.  And the reception we received from the folks at Airbus and the tour that they provided was huge as well.

I wrote the above more than 5 hours ago in an attempt to be witty, smart and informative.  In reality what I am is drunk and exhausted.  Therefore there will be no more text in this post.  Look at the pretty pictures and enjoy.  Hopefully I’ll get more than 3 hours of sleep tonight (unlike the last three) and there will be more coherence in the morning.

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Braving the snow in Oslo

Everything on the trip thus far has been incredibly well prepared theme-wise.  The visit to Oslo and SAS was absolutely consistent with this expectation – we landed in a light snow!  It was chilly outside but the hangar was plenty warm with good fun.

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The SAS crew put on a great show, including a traditional dance troupe and one of their very own flight attendants who is also a quite good singer performing a couple tunes.  She actually used the wing of the 737 as the stage for one of the performances; I’ve got video of that to post later.

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There was a quite informative demonstration by the Norwegian Air Force of the processes they go through for evacuating soldiers.  They had one of the planes configured inside with stretchers rather than regular seats and even a couple demo patients there.

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As part of the safety and patient evac demo they popped one of the emergency slides and Tommy got to ride down it from the plane.  The rest of us were only able to pretend but we still had some fun with it.

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And then our time in Oslo came to an end.  The band played on but we boarded the plane again and headed out to Toulouse.

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I just worked beverage service for a 90 minute flight

And I’m exhausted.  Seriously.

2Q2H0842Sure, I’ve never actually had to do it before so remembering things like the stirrer sticks for the coffee service or making sure I actually served everyone who asked for a drink – sorry again, guys – were things that I really think that I’d do better with a bit of practice.  Still, it was a bit of a humbling experience realizing that it was actually a bit of a challenge to sling a few drinks out to the 50 passengers I was responsible for.  And the real flight attendants were working at least 50% of the cabin, plus doing the actual meal service.

I’m sure I’ll being seeing pictures galore in the coming days and weeks of me working as a flight attendant and drinking on the job.  After all, I had well more than my fare share of Sect on the fight, and a bit of vodka, too.  So it wasn’t really a truly honest effort as to what it would take to serve the cabin.  But it was close, and it was definitely more work than I expected.

But it was also a TON of fun.  I was walking the aisle clearing glasses from the business class cabin while we were on the active taxi-way.  I was trying to figure out which pedal locked the cart and which released it.  I was walking the aisle closing the overhead bins and turning off the call button lights.  It really was a ton of fun.

Oh, we did do the safety demo work, too.  That was fun.  It was harder in that I didn’t have a demo seatbelt to use – I just took the belt off of the seat I was standing next to at the time – and the announcements were done in German, which made it even more challenging.  Still, we all managed to do the demos and arrive safely so no real harm there.

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2Q2H0854We were also fortunate to have with us some coffee brought along specially by a member of the tour.  Vince Mills runs Kena coffee in Hawaii and produced a special Star Mega Do reserve blend for our flights.  As I understand it the coffee was delicious.  So, again, sorry to the few guys who I never made it back to with the cups of coffee.  My bad.  If you’re interested, check our Kena Coffee.  I’m pretty sure he’s got plenty to share with the community.

Fine dining with Star Alliance and Lufthansa

Wrapping up the first day of the tours here in Germany, our group was treated to a meal by the folks from Lufthansa and Star Alliance.  The event was held in the main dining room of Lufthansa’s executive offices just off the airport grounds and we were very well taken care of, to say the least.

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Good booze and good food flowed, as did good friendship and camaraderie.

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Jan Albrecht was present, along with a number of other executives from airlines and the alliance.  They were happy to circulate among the crowd and get feedback from our group, with one of them noting rather humbly that they knew that the FlyerTalk community has a more in-depth understanding of their products than even they do and that they depend on us a good amount to know when things are broken.

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A few more speeches, including the very appropriate and heartfelt thanks being extended to the organizers of the event.

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Lufthansa had some flight attendants at the event as part of the photo shoot and then to be at the party to show off some of the retro uniforms that they used to use.  Quite sharp, to say the least.

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Boarding passes being distributed:

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John celebrating the fact that he managed to lose and find his passport in the 12 hours prior to the departure from the USA.  He had great reason to drink and celebrate, not that we really need good reasons.

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Getting ready to head out on the first charter flight now. 

Mr. DeVille, I’m ready for my close-up

As part of this week’s events a number of reporters have joined the events.  It turns out that I know one of them through my brother-in-law (that was a strange coincidence to discover, especially after we had talked for a couple hours) and they are all working the story on various angles.  Just who are these crazy folks that love to travel so much?  Are there really people who spend every week on the road and then go out of our way to travel more when work stops sending us on the road?

Yes, these people really exist, and they are us.

One of the crews working such a story arranged for a photographer and the associated support staff to be available to shoot a photograph related to their story.  I participated in that event and we had a blast.  I cannot share the name of the publication or the real details of the shoot as of yet, but I’ve been told to expect the article and photo to be published in the February issue of the publication and you can be sure that I’ll be sharing more of that once it is official.

In the meantime, here are a couple shots of our group relaxing before and after the shoot.

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And, just for fun, a cool shot of one of the interior lobbies in Lufthansa’s headquarters near Frankfurt airport.

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Welcome to the Welcome Lounge in Frankfurt

IMG00221-20091104-0558Our flight was early.  Almost ridiculously so.  We actually circled a bit near London and slowed down coming into Frankfurt and we were still ridiculously early.  What we lost in terms of sleep time in-flight, however, was made up for in terms of time spent in the Welcome Lounge arrivals facility in airport.

For me that meant grabbing some food – I slept through the brekkie service on the flight – as well as a bit of a pick-me-up drink.  The bar had all the makings available for Bloody Mary’s, including a nice little setup of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, black pepper and lemon.  But no Vodka.  And when asked the agent seemed dumbfounded that such a thing could even be considered.  Alas, I was relegated to a glass of beer instead.  These are the sacrifices I’ve learned to make for my devotion to the cause.

We managed to be parked at one of the most remote hard stands which meant a 15 minute long taxi and then an additional ride on buses over to the immigration facilities.  We spotted the Lufthansa retrojet along the way.  She’s a beautifully painted Airbus A321 and looks just as lovely as the Continental retrojet.

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Everyone headed off in their own direction at this point, mostly to the hotels to freshen up and prepare for tours of the Lufthansa facilities or other events on-site Wednesday evening, including a dinner hosted by Star Alliance and Lufthansa.

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FlyerTalk, party of 15, your table is now ready

Sure, we do a great job of calculating all the permutations of flight routings and mileage credits, but when it comes to making a reservation for dinner the math skills fall apart in a hurry.  That or the reply skills suck.  Either way we had about 20 folks show up for our dinner of 15 tonight.  Even with the oversell situation we managed to work it out pretty well.  We squeezed in extra seats and eventually overflowed into another table to accommodate that crowd.

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Delicious food, a few drinks and some great stories of travel and other fun.  Hard to go wrong with this crowd.  The real party doesn’t start until tomorrow, bright and early at 7:30am.  See y’all there!

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