When you look around the room here at the SMD2 dinner hosted by Lufthansa and the Star Alliance, you get a giddy sense of excitement from the newbies on this mileage run and a sense of calm satisfaction from day one events. Here’s why:
Off the plane from NYC, many members piled into the Senator Lounge in FRA for a quick snack before heading to the hotel. For some it was “bier.” Others it was the first pretzel of the day and for others it could be the bacon. Trust me, bacon is a big hit with this group. So, immediate cravings satisfied, it’s off to the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel.
With a few short hours of R&R, some more than others if you passed the Lounge experience at the airport and even less if you were among the many who had to check in with work and family to make connections, it was soon apparent that this group would face its longest day.
So, en masse, the group winds its way down to waiting busses headed for the A-380 Hall which after security gave most of the members their first up-close touch and feel of this magnificently large aircraft. And we’re not just talking going inside—we’re talking kicking the tires type of tour. Arranged into three groups with knowledgeable guides, we poured on the pictures with photos in front of the spinning turbine engines being especially popular. Now, for those of us that enjoyed walking or more specifically ducking our heads underneath this A-380, we learned that the weigh of the aircraft directly above us was about 610,200 pounds and a upon take-off it could weigh as much as 1,235,000 pounds fully loaded. Not sure we would have lingered as long as we did knowing that.
So, inside we went, and visited everything in the plane. Where the pilots sleep: check. Where the crew rest area is downstairs (and I do mean downstairs): check. First class bathrooms: check. Lay down in the comfy duvets of the fist class sleeper bed: check. Cockpit tour and the question was finally answered—pilots when hooked up to the system could actually log on the Web and access flyertalk.com: check.
After the A-380 “Do” we head by bus to the LAC (Lufthansa Aviation Center) where we hear from various departments and they really did enjoy the feedback. My group was especially vocal about the topic of mobile boarding passes and what that future looks like. Great to know that this airline, Lufthansa, listens because there were notes being taken both ways.
Now, on to dinner and then a very special private party—one in a location that is one of the truly last bastions of frequent flyer nirvana on my bucket list. Let’s get on to the dinner.
…on sleep and on keeping current with these posts. That’s what happens when your whirlwind evening includes workshops with Lufthansa and Star Alliance (more at USA Today on that one), dinner at Lufthansa headquarters with 76 Mega DOers and executives from across Star and the Lufthansa Group, and a nightcap (one of many) at the First Class Terminal — the first (and certainly the last) time it has ever been opened to non-HON, non-first class passengers. A truly amazing, exclusive experience. Seth will hopefully toss a few photos of the latter on the Web this morning, but more detailed posts on Tuesday night’s activities will have to wait until we’ve touched down in Houston. In the meantime, I have Tattinger Rosé to drink over breakfast at the First Class Terminal. See you on the other side.
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.
The Star Alliance Mega Do 2010 Blog has drawn media, corporate and enthusiast interest from all over the world, with 1000s of unique hits per day from all corners of the world:
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We all love the stories of common sense … as told through the eyes of the airlines. Today while checking in for the start of SMD2, I checked in at the Lufthansa First Class counter … compliments of the Star Alliance Gold-level membership. All is going well, only a single person in front of me vs. the estimated 34 people that would have been in front of me in the “other” check-in line. Passport and all details are fine and I’ve got a nice seat in biz class. The pleasant lady takes my bag to put the luggage locator on it and pauses for a second and says sort of off-handed, “Seems like a long way to go to get to Houston.” I am assuming she saw that on my return I was going to Houston, but replied, “Just a quick overnight and right back, miles, miles, miles.” She smiled and then replies, “So you have some overnight things with you?” To which I replied, “No, this bag is just my reading material and computer.” She pauses again and says, “Why wouldn’t you want your luggage in Frankfurt?” I reply, “Well, I do.” Then the lady pulls off the luggage locator tag and shows it to me. Because of the short turn around, the system actually printed my luggage to go to FRA and then on to IAH with no stop in FRA. Such is the bane of the mileage runner, luggage wants to go faster or slower than we want to.
So, a few clicks in the override mode of the system and now we have luggage and Randy all going, and stopping in the same place.
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
The winner of Lufthansa’s “Tweet To Win” contest for a free seat and (nearly) all expenses paid on this year’s Mega DO is George Papadopoulos, a.k.a. gpapadop, who double his chance by tweeting from two different accounts. “I came across the Lufthansa tweet — I follow them on Twitter — and after hearing great things about what happened last year and seeing some of the picture, I thought ‘Wow, what a great experience to be a part of,’” he recalls thinking. “And when when I saw all I had to do was retweet what they already had, I thought, ‘Why not?’”
He’s angling for a turn in Lufthansa’s simulator, “which I think will be something to remember for the rest of my life if I can get in on that,” says George. “But mostly I like being around planes and being around FlyerTalkers — even though I’m not a Star Alliance guy, I’m a Delta guy, unfortunately. Still, I’m happy.”
Don’t worry, George, we won’t hold it against you.
As the official hotel brand of Star Mega Do 2010 the participation of Starwood Preferred Guest in the week’s events was never in doubt. Nor was earning of SPG points for stays booked as part of the event. But there was a small amount of unknown about just what special benefits the brand would bring to the program. At least part of that question has been answered with an announcement last night.
Starwood will be providing all paid rooms with 1000 bonus SPG points per night for stays booked on the discounted group rate throughout the week. These points are in addition to any other benefits, earnings and promotions that would be accrued through stays at the properties. In addition, Starwood is offering an instant status match to Platinum, the top tier in the SPG program, for top tier folks in other major programs. Enrollment for this match is expected to be available in August.
Combined with the commitment from Continental and Lufthansa to issue miles for the charter portion of the trip – and we’re still working with other Star Alliance carriers to secure their participation as well – the earning potential for the event is significant. It is still outweighed by the behind-the-scenes experiences that all participants will get to participate in, but certainly a nice little bonus.
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.
Good booze and good food flowed, as did good friendship and camaraderie.
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.
A few more speeches, including the very appropriate and heartfelt thanks being extended to the organizers of the event.
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.
Boarding passes being distributed:
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.
Getting ready to head out on the first charter flight now.
… 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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If you spend your life traveling for your job, does a week of visiting airlines in the U.S. and Europe really sound like fun?
It does to a group of road warriors embarking Tuesday on a unique venture organized by FlyerTalk.com, an online community of expert travelers.
The Star Alliance MegaDO (as in a “really big ‘do”) starts with a briefing with United Airlines in Chicago then jets off to Newark, N.J., for a behind-the-scenes look at operations, including the in-flight meal kitchen, at Continental Airlines’ hub there. That night, the 88 participants, who collectively already hold 24 million frequent flyer miles, fly to Frankfurt and join more than 100 more airline junkies in Europe for meetings and briefings with Lufthansa executives.
The following day, a chartered Boeing 757-300 will take the group of 200 to Oslo, Norway, for breakfast with SAS, then Toulouse, France, for a tour of the Airbus A380 final assembly line. Then it’s back to Frankfurt for a stint at Lufthansa’s flight attendant training academy.
Airlines coddle these uber-travelers because they are among their best customers. With business travel in a deep slump, the Star Alliance airlines are bending over backwards for the event.
Stay tuned for updates on the group’s experience.
A great shot of the newly painted 752 arriving in Madrid. Notice the Star Alliance logos on the winglets!
CONTINENTAL AIRLINES JOINS STAR ALLIANCE
Strategic Network Expansion in the Americas, Asia and Europe
New York/Newark Becomes New Star Alliance Hub
NEW YORK CITY, USA – October 27, 2009 – The CEOs of the Star Alliance member carriers today welcomed the alliance’s 25th member: Continental Airlines. Continental’s joining Star Alliance will further enhance the alliance’s three main customer benefits: global reach, worldwide recognition and seamless travel. Continental’s membership follows last year’s announcement of a strategic partnership between Continental and United Airlines. Experts from both airlines and Star Alliance have been working together over the last 18 months in order to ensure the first successful transition of a major airline from one global alliance to another.
“Bringing Continental Airlines into Star Alliance has been a truly unique experience. This is the first time an airline has moved directly from one alliance to another and I would like to thank all those involved in ensuring a smooth switch,” said Jaan Albrecht, CEO Star Alliance. “Our travelers can now begin to appreciate the advantages Continental brings to the Star Alliance network, while Continental’s customers now enjoy enhanced alliance benefits.”
“Continental’s transition to Star Alliance is one of the most important strategic moves we have accomplished in my career at Continental,” said Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner. “Our membership in Star Alliance positions us to deliver a broader network to our customers, and to achieve better business results and a stronger future for my co-workers, our customers and communities as a result of the benefits from participating in the world’s largest airline alliance.”
“Continental’s joining makes the Star Alliance network even more extensive, offering our customers the broadest global access and greatest choice of service,” said Glenn Tilton, chairman and CEO of United Airlines. “We welcome our partner, Continental, which brings tremendous value to our customers, our employees and the communities we serve.”
Due to the limited overlap between Continental’s and Star Alliance’s networks, Star Alliance customers now have a choice of 19,500 daily flights serving some 1,071 airports in 171 countries. The main network enhancements are taking place in North America, to and from Latin America, as well as across the North Atlantic and the Pacific.
In North America, Continental adds its three hubs – New York/Newark, Houston and Cleveland – to the network, providing more choice to Star Alliance customers. Continental’s extensive Latin America network will increase travel options for Star customers to Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Across the North Atlantic, Continental will also add choice for Star Alliance travelers, especially on the very important New York to London market. Options in the Pacific region are enhanced by Continental’s trans-Pacific flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan, and by Continental Micronesia flights centered on Guam.
In addition to the network benefits, Continental flights can now be used to create itineraries for the Star Alliance Round the World fare as well as for the North American Airpass. Moreover, Continental will sell all 13 Star Alliance fare products and as well as participate in the Star Alliance Conventions Plus product.
As part of its Star Alliance membership, Continental OnePass members will now be able to earn and redeem miles on all other Star Alliance member carriers. OnePass Gold and Platinum Elite members automatically have Star Alliance Gold Status, and will receive benefits such as access to more than 954 lounges, extra-baggage allowance, priority baggage delivery, dedicated check-in counters and priority waitlist (reservation) and airport stand-by. OnePass Silver Elite have automatic Star Alliance Silver Status, entitling them to priority waitlist (reservation) and airport stand-by.
Participants in any of the existing Star Alliance Frequent Flyer Programmes can now earn and redeem miles on Continental. Moreover, OnePass members will be able to use their miles as part of Star Alliance Upgrade Awards for a one cabin upgrade when travelling on participating* Star Alliance member carriers.
The Star Alliance network aims to provide fast and convenient connections for customers needing to transfer between flights of different Star Alliance member carriers. Effective immediately, through check-in from the originating airport is available for any itinerary involving a Continental flight in conjunction with another Star Alliance flight. In addition, all Star Alliance Connection Centres will now also encompass all flights operated by Continental. These special behind the scene centres look after passengers and baggage transferring between Star Alliance member carriers, in case of flight irregularities. These centres are currently in operation at selected airports across the network like, Frankfurt, Munich, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo-Narita and Bangkok. Moreover, plans are already underway to co-locate member carriers in the same airport area or terminal at numerous destinations served by Continental. By the end of this year Continental will have physically moved airport operations at 11 airports around the world. For instance, on October 27, Continental moves to Terminal 1 at Frankfurt and on November 1, to the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Tokyo/Narita. Other airports where co-location moves have been made include: Beijing, Chicago, Honolulu and Shanghai.
About Star Alliance:
The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.
* the following member carriers currently offer Star Alliance Upgrade Awards:
Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Continental Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI and United