A few months ago I found myself headed to a Sheraton hotel in East Rutherford, New Jersey, one of the more anonymous towns in the United States.
The purpose of my trip: Frequent Traveler University, a two-day series of seminars on getting the most out of miles and points.
…At these events, you tend to get a rapid-fire guided tour of the extremes people go to for miles.
The language might sound unfamiliar to the non-enthusiast, peppered as it is with phrases unique to the flyer world.
A “mileage run,” for example, is a flight taken for the sole purpose of accumulating miles or attaining elite status.
Most of the time, there’s no destination — you just pack in as many flights as you can (at the lowest possible fare) until you end up back at home.
And what is “elite status” exactly?
He tells the story of one of the exploits of my award booking partner as well:
A number of years ago, Cleveland-based Steve Belkin realized that he could hire people to fly for him, taking control of their frequent flyer accounts in return for a wage and free tickets on a given route.
Once, when an US$8 airfare between two cities in northern Thailand popped up, he crunched the numbers and found he could earn millions of miles on the route for very little money.
Belkin hired a team of out-of-work Thai rice farmers and paid them more than the Thai minimum wage just to be on a plane all day long, back and forth between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, for six weeks straight.
Then, a few weeks in, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took notice. They’d decided that Belkin must be the “stupidest drug-runner they’d ever seen,” and he was called in to explain his actions.
The incredulous agents were eventually convinced as to his true motives, and one of them even asked if he could get in on the deal.
And the MegaDO flights are just such a darned good time!
The past few years have seen the rise of the so-called “mega-do,” which involves working with one of the major airline alliances to put a couple of hundred enthusiasts on a plane together, with events on the ground as well.
When the first oneworld alliance mega-do was announced for January of this year, I couldn’t resist joining.
For US$899, I purchased a seat on a chartered American Airlines (AA) 757 that would take me and around 180 other hard-core frequent flyers from Dallas to Seattle, then to Los Angeles.
There were tours of AA’s operations center and Boeing’s factory in Seattle, and a oneworld party on the ramp at the Los Angeles airport for which Cathay Pacific and Qantas towed over a wide-body each for us to gawk at and tour.
Onboard, passengers were exuberant. The aisles were packed. Pillows flew around the cabin. It was as if Carnival had come to the skies above the United States.
..Even though the flight attendants had to fight through crowds to serve food and drinks, they were smiling as well.
“Isn’t this annoying, having to deal with all of us?” I asked one flight attendant.
“Are you kidding?” he said. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had working a flight.”
A week and a half ago I shared details of the next Frequent Traveler University which will be held at the Sheraton LAX November 30-December 2. It will sell out but tickets are still available.
The November Star MegaDO sold out in about 5 minutes, but we expect another Oneworld MegaDO early in 2013. I’ll keep y’all apprised!