Suggestions for Next Time

Discussion in 'SMD4 (Star MegaDO #4)' started by Dreamworks, Nov 18, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Dreamworks

    Dreamworks Gold Member

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    Hey,

    So I truly enjoyed meeting so many deviant and psychopathic people this past week. I've been sleeping for hours and I'm still tired. All in good fun. So in addition to thanking Tommy and Melinda and Ed and Randy for all of their hard work, I wanted to also share some thoughts about the trip as it was my first. I recognize that the best thing about these trips will always be the people and so this is just some feedback.

    I did the International Portion because I really wanted to do the Domestic one and was nervous that I wouldn't get the chance to buy it. Asides from eating enough cheese in Zurich to stop me up for weeks, and a delightful tour of the Duty-Free areas at ZRH, I'm not really sure it was worth it.

    And after hearing about the craziness on the charters, perhaps I was a little let down with the time it took to get the food out and the drinks served. Of course, I was in the back of the plane, so I'm just lucky they didn't throw Bugles and tallboys of Schlitz at me.

    And though sleep is for the weak, I would have liked more than 4 hours in Houston, so maybe just an idea for next time.

    Again, this is all just some feedback. I really am appreciative for the work that you folks do. And for putting up with savages like me.
     
  2. alfagirl

    alfagirl Gold Member

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    Ditto (except I did like the International portion)....
    and who has the video of you doing the in flight safety demo?????? I was laughing so hard I was crying and it was hard to catch my breath....:cool:
     
  3. wild_bucket

    wild_bucket Silver Member

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    I think EVERYONE should see this video, just from the parts I've heard about I want to see it
     
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  4. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    The schedule was this tight in Houston because of the 787s schedule. We were supposed to fly out from SFO at noon and IAH at 8am, United made us change that a few weeks before the DO. So this time, the plane dictated the schedule, not the other way around. It won't happen in the future unless we get another new, cool airplane

    The service onboard on the first half of the first flight was a disaster. The crew had been instructed by charter to not use the carts in the aisle and rather serve a tray from the galley. Not a good idea, so I put my foot down right before mid flight and ordered double sets of drink carts in each aisle. After that it went smooth. We will definitely make sure that never happens again when we have the debrief with UA charter.
     
  5. Dreamworks

    Dreamworks Gold Member

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    Thanks Tommy. Appreciate the feedback.
     
  6. canucklehead
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    canucklehead Gold Member

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    I was on the other side of the plane doing a demo, but even the audio is hilarious! :D
     
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  7. Au4882

    Au4882 Gold Member

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    I had a great time all-around. If I had to suggest anything, it would be to add an extra day in Europe on the INTL segment. Either another day in ZRH, or maybe a full day in FRA and a full day in ZRH. Also, LX needs to blow up their Y cabin and start over -- especially in the far back. I will not be flying them in the back again... ever.

    Obviously, the B787 caused some scheduling changes, but I think they were all carried pretty well. At the end of the day, I was thrilled that the organizers were able to pull off a charter of the 787... less than two weeks after it entered passenger service. No matter which way you slice it, that's impressive.:D
     
  8. SMD4Attendee

    SMD4Attendee Active Member

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    This letter is written with the input of multiple participants at SMD4, particularly the international portion. We would like to preface this letter by saying that the 787 charter and everything done by United Airlines for us in Chicago as well as the Hyatt reception in SFO were great. The community of the participants in SMD is also great.

    Having said that, we think the organizers of Starmegado need to hear a few things.

    First of all, the trip to Frankfurt and Zurich was a dud.

    We did not have a single unique aviation or travel-related experience.

    Zurich is a charming city. We weren’t there long enough to enjoy it. In fact we were shoo’d to the airport very early Tuesday morning so that we could get a tour. A tour that took 90 minutes and featured….. a visit to a duty free shop and a 5 minute look at a Senator lounge. Then we were brought to the sterile end of the concourse 2 hours before our flight and told to stay there. Waiting around for a long time, a photo, then waiting around again.

    The Swiss International representative told us that they weren’t informed soon enough of the nature of our group and our interests, or they would have done something more appropriate.

    Had we been told what the tour was, we could have slept in another hour, or taken a nice walk around downtown Zurich, and enjoyed a leisurely hour at the Senator Lounge before the flight. But we weren’t provided the information to make that decision.

    The short presentation at FRA airport was also disappointing, with no special information or access. Many would have rather visited the Senator lounge than being sequestered for 75 minutes at the end of the concourse.

    On the whole, the entire European trip was a disappointment and a waste of time and money. While we have learned from previous SMD’s that details are usually not provided in advance, the actual experiences have been phenomenal, and the participants this year relied on that past history. But SMD4 TATL did not deliver. While the absence of the 748i was of course disappointing as well, that wasn’t the primary disappointment – the primary disappointment was the lack of a meaningful ground program in both FRA and ZRH – and the failure to inform the participants of that fact so that they could make their own decision regarding how they wanted to spend the morning in Zurich.

    If there is a future international program, we recommend that it includes at least two days at the destination, and that the detailed program be communicated in advance so that participants are given the knowledge to make good choices for how to use their time to their satisfaction.

    The domestic portion of SMD4 was far more successful (the 787 & UA get a lot of the credit for that) but the logistics need to be addressed:

    If we are going to have full days, the travel logistics need to take higher precedence in planning. It made little sense to drive from IAH to downtown Houston at 10pm and back at 5am. It made even less sense to spend 1 hour 40 minutes driving from Schaumburg to downtown Chicago Thursday evening, and back that night, and then do it again on Friday morning. We understand there were availability issues with Hyatt, but the logistics need to take greater precedence, and either move functions based on the hotels or choose the chain based on where they have locations with available space. And no one appreciates being woken at 11pm at night with word that the departure has just been moved up by an hour – the event simply needs better planning.

    United really made the domestic Do work – it’s clear they put in the effort and money to make it a great event. They did much, much more than they did at SMD2 and SMD3. Next year, when they don’t have new plane to show us, how much will they do? The organizers will have to deliver more, and show us they can. This year, several elements that were originally part of the program, like the 15th anniversary Star alliance party and participation by Singapore and EVA failed to materialize, and FRA/ZRH were duds. So if United doesn’t carry the ball, who will?

    We know that the organizers are doing this as a volunteer effort – but with high expectations, and four years of experience, and higher financial commitments by participants, it is reasonable to deliver a better degree of planning and organization and communication to participants of what is really committed and what’s pie in the sky. Perhaps it’s time to have a paid staff member on the team. Especially since it costs $2-4K internationally, plus another $2-3K domestically.

    Randy – addressed to you – we all love you. The Megado brand is closely tied to the Milepoint brand. If it hadn’t been for United and their efforts and the 787 launch, both brands would have been severely tarnished. As it is, the international leg will be more questionable next year without more assurances about what will be delivered. We know you care, Randy, and perhaps you need to take more personal control of the event.

    This post represents the thoughts of multiple participants in the Do. There’s a culture in the Megado not to want to hear or accept criticism, but we think it needs to be heard. We have written this post with the intent of being constructive and helping the event to thrive. But you need to hear that there was a lot of negative chatter, especially prior to the United portion, but even on the bus rides to/from Schaumburg.

    We welcome open discussion and input from everyone. Thank you for your attention.
     
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  9. SMD4Attendee

    SMD4Attendee Active Member

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    Uh-oh. The lights just flickered.
     
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  10. Jett Rink
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    Jett Rink Silver Member

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    Chuckle
     
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  11. wild_bucket

    wild_bucket Silver Member

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    You had it better than others, you had an empty seat next to you. So did I, think I would of gone insane if it was a full flight like that. LX could at least bring its IFE into this century and not have a gigantic metal box under the aisle seats.
     
  12. Au4882

    Au4882 Gold Member

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    Yes, thankfully I did have an open seat next to me. I honestly cannot imagine what I would have done if I had not. Probably would have spent the flight walking around or standing in the exit rows.
     
  13. canucklehead
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    canucklehead Gold Member

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    you mean you wouldn't have had a fun time with me sitting beside you?!? :eek: :p
    FWIW, I was probably out of my seat more often than in my seat for the TATL flights. Much more fun, though I was tempted to check out the crew rest area. I figure that's why they left the key in the door! :D ;)
     
  14. Au4882

    Au4882 Gold Member

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    Yes -- thank you, thank you, thank you for changing your seat. The crew rest area would have been my move I'm thinking.

    Pretty much all-around disappointed with LX -- had heard so much good about them, but I guess all those accolades are for the product found on the other side of the curtain. I mean, who runs out of ice an hour into a TATL flight? That's just poor form.
     
  15. bonnerbl
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    bonnerbl Gold Member

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    We can all benefit from honest feedback without recriminations. Valid observations worth thinking about. Only item I would add is a rethinking of the raffle/prizes/requirements so it is all understood at the onset and not subject to later interpretation.
     
  16. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    I was fine in my seat, even with a seatmate. ;)
     
  17. Au4882

    Au4882 Gold Member

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    Yeah, I too would have been just fine with your seatmate! :oops:
     
  18. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    This is by no means meant to be any form of "official" reply. But as someone who was asked to volunteer and help out with some of the logistics as SMD4 approached, let me first say that I think that the open letter is well written, makes valid critiques, and offers constructive suggestions. Unlike whiny rants that attack without offering solutions, in my sole opinion, the original post is thoughtful and helpful in thinking about ways to improve the process going forward.

    All that being said, having seen the other side of the curtain, I have a deeper respect and appreciation for what it takes to carry out a MegaDo. And I realize now more than I ever did before, how much is out of the control of the organizers' hands, and how much control is exerted by the partners who in large part, are responsible for the delivery and execution of events - the program in Europe being the prime example.

    And speaking of Europe, certainly compared to SMD1 (as I was told, since I did not go on SMD1), SMD2 (where we had private access to an A380, a fantastic program w/Star Alliance, dinner in LH HQ, and the nightcap in the LH FCT), and SMD3 (where we had an excellent behind-the-scenes program sponsored by LH), SMD4 was definitely sub-par.

    But while this may not be much (if any) consolation to new MegaDO participants who may feel that the ROI of time and money spent to go on the TATL may not have fully delivered, for MegaDO veterans with whom I have spoken, certainly the social and charitable giving aspects of a MegaDO are just as important and fun as the the airline and hotel programs. Clearly, however, this is a YMMV situation.

    Anyway, to reiterate, the above does not constitute any form of official response from the organizers. But personally, I do appreciate the tone and presentation of the arguments and points as delivered.
     
  19. aptraveler

    aptraveler Gold Member

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    +1 ;)

    Good open communication makes for better understanding, especially when the idea behind it is to improve things and NOT to tear them down.

    Now, if I recall correctly, we're the first ones in North America that charted a 787! :cool:

    That's a hell of an accomplishment and a new fact for the history books! ;)
     
  20. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    Honest feedback is great. What makes this such a hard thing to organize is that everyone has different interests and opinions on what's good or bad. Many liked the international portion, some did not.

    But I can immediately admit: This was by far the most challenging MegaDO this far. I'm still totally wiped.

    First of all, not everyone has time to be away from home for as long as a week. In fact, we've gotten plenty of feedback that folks are complaining that the week is too long. The last 4 MegaDOs international portion has lasted the same amount of time as this one. If people are expecting to visit a European city and spend time there, I don't recommend doing the international portion. I've not gotten any bad feedback on the European portion except for some of the folks who didn't like the Swiss portion of the program. I wasn't there, so I can't speak for it. But to have a great party in LA, an awesome flight with friends, meet the President of Star Alliance, get a VIP treatment at the Park Hyatt in Zurich, enjoy a city tour and an awesome reception at the Park Hyatt made the European portion worth it for me. Everyone knew in advance what the program was. I don't know how the European portion could have been done anything different, except for the Swiss program (even if many actually liked that as well). Sure, it sounded lame according to some. And we'll give Swiss that feedback when we debrief.

    But everyone knew that the flight landed in Frankfurt at 1045AM with a connecting flight at 105PM. Everyone knew the time perspective. Yes, it's tight. If that's your cup of tea, I don't recommend doing the international portion

    If you compare the program to the last years, I think everyone who's done the international portion before will agree that this one is one of the better ones. I think it was the best one in since SMD2. For OW MegaDO, we landed at LHR in the AMs, we had a BA program at BAs HQ and then a reception at one of their lounges. That was the program. Last SMD, we landed in the AMs in Munich, we had a LH program at the airport with hangar visits and catering visits followed by a simple snack at the Airbrau at MUC which concluded at 730PM, we returned super early the next morning.

    People just don't have time to stay overseas for days and when jetlag hits after 48 hours for many, it gets so much harder returning to the US. People are different. What we can do is to offer an extra day overseas (like at SMD1). But at SMD1 only a handful decided to stay behind. I'm open to suggestions, but to think that the feedback here is the answer, I'm not so sure about. There were 206 participants this year and everyone has different preferences.

    It surprises me that you're so confident when you hand out blame. There are so many behind the scene things folks are not aware of and so many factors we need to consider when things are planned. The fact that we were trying to get the 787 made it extremely hard to plan logistics this year. And the organizers are not the ones to blame when there are schedule changes. For example, the flight SFO-IAH was supposed to leave 12 noon and land in Houston at 6 with BBQ till 8AM, at the hotel by 9. It was supposed to leave at 8AM the next morning, so more than enough sleep with a 45 min. busride included. Also, they didn't let us know about the time change on Friday till right before we had to call everyone on Thursday night to make sure people didn't miss it. So yes, better planning is needed, and that goes for all stake holders. Communications between United and the organizers need to improve significantly and that's something we will debrief on.

    In order to keep the costs down at under 1000USD to participate, we need a hotel sponsor and because we wanted to have the 787 right after launch (and before Thanksgiving) it was extremely difficult to get everything to work. Again, the 787 schedule dictated the dates and times. The Hyatt Regency downtown was of course the first hotel we looked at and unfortunately it was close to sold out already back in June when we looked at it, they could only offer a close to 300 dollar rate for a small part of the participants. That was a deal breaker. We wanted people to stay at the same hotel. At Hyatt ORD, they had the Furries and Hyatt corporate did not want to introduce their best customers to that mess. And it was for good reason. The folks who stayed at the Hyatt ORD for the last night was woken up all night.

    So we ended up at Schaumburg. And United did not want their reception there because it would be extremely hard to get their executives to commit to come to Schaumburg. And for good reason. I knew in advance that it would be a challenge with traffic. But we had no choice.

    Well, first of all, you and the participants put the most money on the table, a 6 digit number as a matter of fact. In the past, Boeing, Air Canada, US Airways, Continental, Bombardier, Hyatt and Starwood has carried the ball year after year along with the organizers, I'm quite sure we can do it in the future. If not, we wouldn't sell out in minutes.

    This year was the toughest logistically because of the plane. It was tough for Hyatt, United and the organizers.

    The financial stake for the domestic part has been pretty much exactly the same since day 1 and you get a helluva lot for your 1000 bucks IMHO. Again, not making excuses here, but this one was extremely difficult because of the plane. It was a moving target till the day of departure. The team IS getting better, but this year was BY FAR the most difficult thing for all the stake holders and the organizers.

    Here's where I have a problem. None of you know what has happened behind the scenes. Not at all. The truth is that if it hadn't been for the 787, it would have been a walk in the park to pull this off. And again, to blame the organizers for time changes without knowing the facts, is just wrong. Melinda, Nathan, Ed, Eric, Gary, Sean, Michael and myself have spent thousands of hours on this event that costs pretty much nothing and we were prepared. We were served a few curveballs and we were expecting some because we were gutsy enough to try something impossible like paying to charter a plane with huge implementation problems, we got served a lot more curveballs than we expected. But at the end of the day, the dozens and dozens of emails, milepoint messages, gifts, hugs, thank you's (including Randy) and dozens and dozens begging to be able to make it again, makes me feel good about what was put together by the organizers and our sponsors.

    But there's always room for improvement, so here's what I will do:

    I will send out a survey and collect feedback from every participant

    We will also take a look at the hotel stay requirements. The buses we had to pay for were really expensive and caused a lot of extra work this time around.
     
  21. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    Absolutely. They will all be crystal clear in writing moving forward
     
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  22. drewbles
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    drewbles Gold Member

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    I too had high hopes for LX. I guess I should have been sceptical when LH, whom i've heard horror stories about in whY, turned out to be semi-reasonable (in terms of leg room and the ability to lift the arm rests into the aisle). As mentioned elsewhere, LX should blow up their Y product, and start again!
     
  23. drewbles
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    drewbles Gold Member

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    Gee, what a surprise ;)
     
  24. drewbles
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    drewbles Gold Member

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    Considering what AA did for us on the OWMD, I think you put it just perfectly. It would seem that AA pulled out all the stops and the event was truly smooth (With the exception of AA51, but that's another thing).

    UA showed elements of the AA execution, although the segregation of the groups by 'select what you want' was a little strange. I got my third option (which, to be honest, was not exciting; sitting around a table eating airline food, on the ground, hearing what they do with wine tasting was not my idea of excitement) and I know of people on the airport ops tour (my and SO's first choice) who said they had it as their third option. I understand the want for them to accommodate all of us and it was not possible to put us all on the same thing, but there should be a better way IMHO (not saying I know the answers, just putting it out there).
     
  25. drewbles
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    drewbles Gold Member

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    And i'm sure the one thing we can all agree upon is we all, without question, appreciate the huge amount of work you and Ed, Melinda, Nathan etc put in to the event. I'm sure I speak for everyone that we understand the nightmare that is the logistics of such an event, and the fact you managed to pull off the 787 (in relative secrecy) is a tribute to this.

    Seeing your reaction to the way food and beverages were coming out on leg one of the charter made it blindingly obvious that things that affect the overall experience were out of your hands. The fact you tried to help with the wine service (and that From NYC assisted in clearing up the trays to facilitate an efficient booze service ;)) was not seen by many of us, but it was clear that they had not done what was requested, and it was affecting the overall mood of the charter.

    Having only done the OWMD and this, I'd rate the OWMD as well above, but i'm certainly not poo-pooing the past weeks effort nor experience (Even if the duty free zone at ZRH is the same as most other airports, except having a few more watches and chocolates ;)).
     

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