|Daniel 21 and Ray 81|
To me, that photo, taken in the lobby of the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel, captures the spirit of all frequent traveler get-togethers, and more clearly defines the magic of our hobby and the diversity of our crowd than any of the others — people with common interests sharing a passion for travel. Daniel, at 21, “gets it” and is willing to share what he knows with anyone who asks. He reminds me so much of Nathan, who was also in his 20s at the time, mentored a rookie with the handle “ingy.” He taught me to see the world.
Ray, on the other hand, has done it all, seen it all, and still shares his stories, some quite amazing, with anyone who needs the help. Get this: Ray has held an American Express credit card since 1959 and is still actively applying for cards. He flies First Class on all his worldly travels based on the things he has learned throughout the years.
|Frugal Me with Suzanne and Ben|
It is indeed all about the people and access to those prominent in the travel industry. Here (right) I’m standing with Suzanne Rubin, the new president of the AAdvantage loyalty program, and Ben Mutzabaugh from USA Today. Although they are high-level, important individuals in their respective fields, they are really just travel junkies at heart. We all share stories and that common thread: the love of travel. And when you get a moment to share with those “in the know,” they really care about your experience. It is not just phony marketing smiles and cocktail party BS, but real down-to-earth discussions and sharing of information with those who want your opinions and ideas.
As for the event, I’m a thumbs up on the MegaDO concept. I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for what it takes to put one of these on and, in particular, a couple of individual organizers. Ed “Pizzaman” Pizzarello is a hoot, well-organized, and part of the glue that keeps this event running smoothly. Melinda, Tommy777′s fiance, also does a first-class job of keeping the show running smoothly. Pleasant and helpful. If you are thinking of attending a future event, these two will be an integral part of your successful MegaDO. My hat is off to both of you behind-the-scenes stars.
Tommy777 is, well, Tommy777. A self-described “mover and shaker,” he loves the limelight (and his gin) and keeps the show moving at all times — sometimes funny, boisterous, and, when necessary, pushy. You never will forget who is in charge when Tommy is around.
And now for the event itself. I was disappointed in the London transatlantic portion. The pre-departure event put on by American Airlines was excellent, many loved the tower tours, and access to the execs at American was easy and real. I found the British Airways presentation to be a standard PR pitch with a few minutes left over for the gift shop and museum. My biggest issues besides the presentations were scheduling and hotel locations. With the short amount of time we had available, a few tweaks to the scheduling and a more convenient hotel location would have made all the difference in the world. I know Hyatt was an event sponsor and I supported Hyatt for doing so, but their closest hotel was a 70-pound cab ride and an hour away. Their lack of hotels in all the places I need to be is my biggest reason for not frequenting Hyatt on a regular basis. I like the product but, plainly and simply, they need more hotels.
The domestic portion of the trip was worth its weight in gold, not only for the personal interactions, but the opportunities as well. We got to do it all and see it all in Dallas at American and Boeing in Seattle. From the simulator through the evacuation drills, American Airlines laid out the red carpet for us. I’m an airplane geek and to be able to watch the process of building a plane on that assembly line was quite a treat. While boarding the bus back to SEA TAC, I looked in the parking lot and there sitting under blue tarps were $60 million worth of engines waiting to be installed. Sixty million dollars worth. By the way, the future of aircraft cabins will be a big plus for all of us. We have been flying in the same basic design for the last 40 years, but Boeing is taking it up a notch with their new interiors. I can’t wait.
And the A380 by Qantas at LAX, well, I can’t wait to get one on one of those for a long distance trip to some far off land.
Overall rating: A-. The plusses were the people attending, organizers, and events scheduled domestically. On the down side: the international schedule and hotel locations at several locales. Remember for future events, these factors will change depending on who is sponsoring the event.
A good value and worthwhile use of your time? Absolutely. Go for it if you can.