Star Mega DO 3 Chicago Launch!

Last night was the launch of the Star Mega DO. For most folks, anyway, about a third of the participants went on a pre-Mega DO trip to Germany, and I understand that it was a mind blowing experience, especially for the gang that found themselves in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal. One person was pretty proud of the (4) rubber duckies that they brought home.

A couple of participants even managed to talk their way into an upgrade from business class to first class on the aircraft, after pushback. That may truly have been a first.

The flight from Frankfurt to Chicago was delayed about three hours, and a massive backup at immigration, meant that those of us starting in Chicago had the full spread and the airline and hotel executives to ourselves for the start of the show.

The Park Hyatt Chicago is a lovely hotel, and they put together a nice spread. Randy Petersen introduced the executives in attendance from United, a good deal of senior leadership was there and fellow execs joked about getting Jeff Foland (President of Mileage Plus) to drink a few too many cocktails and divulge details of next year’s (combined United-Continental) mileage program a bit early. Then Hyatt’s Jeff Zidell came up to welcome folks too. They were all gracious, seeing the group as one to thank for their business and listen to and learn from about their travel experiences.

United brought a large contingent, I did chat with Scott O’Leary for awhile and also the director of onboard services about the alignment of United and Continental catering, I also expressed my disappointment at the size of the new onboard cookies 🙂

The Hyatt folks were friendly as ever. Jeff had planned to fly on the Mega DO charter, but got pulled away at the last minute for back to school night.
One of the most earnest people I’ve met in loyalty, I was complimenting him on how smoothly I think the rollout has been of the new Gold Passport late checkout benefits for elite members (front desk agents regularly proactively offer late checkout at full service Hyatts, and I imagine the training involved must have been a tremendous task). And he demurs on the compliments, lamenting that the messaging was clouded by other less positive news at the same time. Of course, the shifting in hotel rewards categories really wasn’t bad at all…

He did observe that Hyatt has an advantage with more owned hotels and fewer franchisees to work through in delivering consistent benefits. But that it’s still a big task for his team of twenty-something people to get the different brands and regions on board, since they have different customers and needs. Rolling out 4pm late checkout for Diamond members systemwide, as a guaranteed benefit at most properties, isn’t like flipping a switch. Jeff was joined by Rene Mizwicki, one of my absolute favorite people in miles and points, as well as an intern and another team member that I didn’t have a chance to meet.

The swag started early, we got United champagne flutes and Hyatt wine bottle stoppers on the way out as we boarded the buses to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
It’s hard to imagine how the hotel handled the massive influx of Mega DOers, I wonder if any hotel has ever had one group of 150+ top-tier elites check in at one time before?

Everyone on the Mega DO was given Gold Passport Diamond status through February, 2013. Here’s a table from the morning with Diamond welcome kits for everyone that was a new Diamond member:

I’d bet that with these folks all getting 4 confirmed suite upgrade certificates, and having another 4 to look forward to at the beginning of next year, that some even blew a confirmed suite upgrade on a single night stay at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. And surely with that many Diamonds, not everyone could get their ideal upgrade. But certainly the hotel tried — me, I had a nice junior suite in the Executive Wing.

We weren’t all going to fit into the club lounge, so breakfast in the morning was set up in the Grand Ballroom downstairs. Then the next set of swag bags were distributed, complete with black Mega DO 3 t-shirts and Milepoint paper airplanes. Those airplanes all have tail numbers on them, and those will serve as tickets for several prize drawings throughout the charter flight.

Me, I was just in and out of Chicago. My flight leaving DC was cancelled yesterday, I lost my confirmed upgrade, but I wound up with an Economy Plus aisle seat and am empty middle. I’m flying a US Airways codeshare on an Airbus A319 back to DC as I write this, no advance upgrade and first class was full, I’m in Economy Plus with a row to myself. I think on the Mega DO they call this ‘Tommy Class’. I won’t be flying the charter, but I’ll be meeting up with everyone in Denver over the weekend, catching a 6pm flight out of DC on Friday. I have to work this week, but I can still show up and help out, I hear my job on Saturday is driving people back and forth to United’s Denver Sim center, all the folks who will be spending time in the flight simulators.

A real highlight of the evening for me was getting to meet Mommy Points, since she has such a different approach to travel and to blogging than I do but she’s still one of the very most interesting reads out there I think. Family travel, and the simple things families can do to make seeing the world easier and less expensive, is a far cry from my own focus on the higher end of travel. I have such a hard time even picturing having a lap infant, or waiting until the rest of the passenger get off a plane before getting off myself.

As I post this I’m now back in DC, while everyone else is certainly having a blast on the charter flight up in Montreal. Can’t wait to reconnect with everyone tomorrow night in Denver!

Update: Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney on the European portion of the Mega DO.

Organized by volunteers through the online community Milepoint.com, the third annual “Star Alliance Mega Do’’ took a group of road warriors across the Atlantic on Tuesday to visit Lufthansa AG, which had travel enthusiasts loading baggage on the ramp at Munich Airport, touring catering kitchens and sipping champagne in a first-class lounge…

The “Star Alliance Megado’’ is an excursion where frequent travelers, many with top-level elite status, meet with airline executives and tour various aspects of airline operations. This year’s trip, which began Monday and ends Saturday, was scheduled to bounce from New York to Frankfurt to Chicago to Montreal to Denver and include sessions with Hyatt Hotels Corp., regional jet maker Bombardier Inc. and airlines Lufthansa, United and Air Canada.

About 40 people made the European leg, and another 120 or so were booked to join the North American portion. The group chartered a Boeing 737-900 from Continental starting in Chicago for the Montreal and Denver visits.

Airlines fete the group not only because they are high-flying customers but also because they know airlines, airplanes and airports intimately, and provide loud feedback. “If they give us advice on how we can improve, that is substantial,’’ said Klaus Walther, senior vice president of corporate communications for Lufthansa.

Feedback from the Milepoint group has prompted Lufthansa to make changes in its Internet booking site and social media efforts, as well as speeding up dinner service on night flights from the U.S. to Germany to maximize sleep hours, he said.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m less upset by the size of the new United cookie than the change in the brand of coffee they now serve. They went from Starbucks to some horrible brand. When I mentioned it to the flight attendant he said he hears that complaint numerous times a day……..

  2. “Feedback from the Milepoint group has prompted Lufthansa to make changes in its Internet booking site…….”

    Too bad Delta didn’t listen to a word of it’s supposedly high value customers when they met for 2 years at the Road Warrior Do. Their website is still worst in class. And I’m not sure it’s not on purpose….

  3. I can’t believe that the tables A-Z doesn’t even have a bouquet of flowers. I thought 1-800-Flowers would have catered at least that. 😉

  4. Loved hanging out with you as well! It is so fascinating to hear the exotic tales of the traveling elite…..and then figure out how to apply many of the same principals for the rest of us who normally travel in the “rear part of the aircraft”. 😉 Welcome back to the DO!

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