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Impressions From the oneworld MegaDo Launch

Sunday night was the launch party for the oneworld MegaDo. What the heck is that, you ask? Great question. It’s basically when a bunch of guys who fly too much actively get together to fly even more. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s actually a very interesting phenomenon. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

If you’re familiar with the website FlyerTalk, then you know it as a place where frequent fliers and mileage junkies get together to discuss exactly what’s going on. There is a separate forum for each airline’s mileage program and the loyalists all get together to talk in great detail. The FlyerTalk founder, Randy Petersen, has moved on to create a new, very similar, site called MilePoint, and many of the FlyerTalkers have gone over there as well.

oneworld MegaDo Launch

Over the years, some airlines have actively courted travelers on these sites, knowing that their most frequent fliers tend to be found here. Continental is one airline that was particularly active in this sense. It turned into meetings with execs as a perk for those active members of the community. Then airplanes started to get involved.

Star Alliance has participated in the past (and will keep doing so in the future), but last night was a chance for oneworld to kick it off as well. Now, it may be called the oneworld MegaDo, but it’s really all about American Airlines here. (At least on the flights side. Hyatt is the big player on the hotel side.) American had its AAdvantage chief (and burgeoning video star) Maya Leibman there along with many on her team to discuss details of what’s happening on the January trip.

So why was there a party when the trip itself isn’t for a couple months? That’s a really good question. Seems like a good reason to just get together and drink. But ultimately it was used to announce the details of the trip. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that people flew in from all over the place just for this party – anything to earn more miles, right?

The plan is to start off with people flying to London from New York to spend time with British Airways and then back to Dallas on American. That’s sort of an add-on that’s like a pre-party for the big show. In Dallas, the group will spend the first day hanging around with American’s top brass, poking and prodding them with questions. Then that evening, they are chartering an American 757 that will fly everyone up to Boeing Field where they’ll get wined and dined by Boeing. The next day will even include a VIP behind-the-scenes tour at Boeing. That afternoon, they’ll have another charter fly everyone down to LA. The final day will be filled with meetings with a variety of oneworld airlines.

If this sounds crazy, you’re not alone in thinking that. As Maya said in her speech, “You guys are a different demographic. You’re a different psychographic with emphasis on ‘psycho.'” That, of course, drew a lot of laughs. This isn’t a group that’s easily offended . . . unless you reduce their frequent flier benefits. I wonder if that’s part of the reason that American is doing this trip now.

This is American’s first real push to do a major event like this, but American wasn’t the only airline being discussed. United and its program changes were brought up many times at the event. You can sense some unhappiness and uneasiness about what’s happening at United, and you have to think American is trying to capitalize on that.

Plenty of people at the event were asking whether American would match status as part of this trip, and most of those questions were from United loyalists. It doesn’t look like there will be a straight match but clearly American is interested in wooing people. The airline did announce a big bonus mile offer that would go out to the people who take this trip – the more roundtrips you fly in a three month period, the more bonus miles you’ll get.

In the end, I wonder if the effort is worth it for the airline to do a MegaDo. Sure, everyone has to pay to attend the event, so it’s not like American is losing a bunch of money on the deal, but it does have to sink a great deal of time and effort into putting this together for a very small group. I mean, you had a bunch of AAdvantage team members along with PR people that had to fly in to spend their Sunday night at this party in LA. But I commend them for trying it at least once. They can decide whether it’s worth it or not after giving it a shot here.

If you’re interested in the trip, go to megado.com to learn more. It will likely start around $799 for coach and go up from there. Bookings should begin soon, and I imagine it will fill up quickly. (While I’d love to experience a MegaDo for myself, I won’t be on this particular trip.)

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