One of the most extravagant frequent flyer events of the year is a MegaDO. (So called because it’s “Mega” and a big “to-DO.”) The first Star Alliance MegaDO was four years ago, and this year’s event is shaping up to be a huge behind-the-scenes event with trips to airports, factories, and even a military installation. After getting more feedback from attendees the organizers have found a way to modify the itinerary and bring down the cost without having any effect on the amount of fun. Dates will be October 22-25 later this year.
Most of first class and the extra legroom seats have been sold out, limiting new attendees to basic coach, which costs $999 — which includes all meals and transportation. Hotel costs are extra but come with complimentary Marriott Rewards Platinum status, one of the most difficult status tiers to obtain.
I sat in a standard economy class seat last year when we charted one of United’s 787 Dreamliners and was perfectly fine. The fact is these flights are relatively short, and the main reason for charting an aircraft is to be able to travel more conveniently as a large group. For example, last year on Star MegaDO 4 we taxied right up to a maintenance hangar at Houston-Bush Intercontinental for a barbeque and live music. In Chicago we had a tour of United’s operations before heading to their corporate headquarters. While in flight, you’ll enjoy business catering, unlimited beverage service, and the freedom to get up and chat with friends.
This year, the organizers of Star MegaDO 5 have roped in Air Canada in addition to United Airlines. The event will start in Toronto with a party hosted by Marriott, a visit to the Rimowa factory (with luggage inspired by old-style, ribbed aluminum aircraft), and a behind-the-scenes look at Air Canada’s operations at Toronto Pearson International. All of this takes place over a couple days.
When it’s time to go, the chartered United 737-900 will head to Tucson, AZ, where everyone will be bused to AMARC, the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. This is a military base with some planes you’ll never see out the window at your local airport! It does mean that not everyone will attend the same activities — U.S. citizens and those who aren’t will have slightly different schedules due to Big Brother’s security concerns — but some organizers are non-citizens, too, and assure that the tours will be equally impressive. (Been to Tucson before? Don’t forget to enter my contest this week for one of five prizes.)
Finally, it’s back to the plane and on to San Francisco. This is obviously the highlight of the trip because who doesn’t love San Francisco? There will be another party in one of United Airlines’ maintenance hangars, where you can spend time recounting all the fun you’ve had before heading back home the next day.
Again, all this — flights, parties, booze, food, and ground transportation — is only $999 (and that includes tax if I recall correctly). Hotel costs are about $140 a night. It’s mandatory that you stay at one of the group hotels and pay the group rate, but many people share rooms to save money. You won’t be spending much time in your room anyway! And did I mention the miles? In addition to Marriott giving everyone Platinum status, United Airlines and Air Canada will be giving people redeemable, elite qualifying, and lifetime miles depending on the ticket booked:
- Coach: 5000 PQM/RDM/Lifetime + applicable tier bonus
- Tommy Class and Economy Plus: 7500 PQM/RDM/Lifetime + applicable tier bonus
- First Class: 15.000 PQM/RDM/Lifetime + applicable tier bonus