Star Alliance MegaDo. Day 1. Vienna.

Last week I was offered a place at an event that I’d heard about tangentially over a few years, but never looked into much further.  It’s called the Star Alliance MegaDo, or just ‘MegaDo’ for short.

Over the past seven years, they’ve organised a multi-day trip, complete with private charter, with some of the key airlines from Star Alliance.

This year was no exception, it involved:

  • Behind the scenes tour of Vienna airport
  • Meet and greet with the Austrian Airlines team including the CCO
  • Drinks reception at the Vienna Airport Private Jet terminal
  • Private charter from Vienna to Brussels
  • Brussels Airlines engineering base tour
  • Opportunity to meet with the Brussels Airlines CEO
  • Second private charter from Brussels to Palma
  • All day with the team from Hyatt at the Park Hyatt Mallorca

That’s quite an itinerary!

So at 09.45 on Wednesday morning, I presented myself at the reception of the NH Hotel Vienna Airport and conference centre.

There was a short introduction followed by a talk from Austrian Airlines Chief Commercial Officer, Andreas Otto.  Thankfully he kept the PowerPoint light, and gave a fascinating overview of Austrian, their future plans, and some of the product developments that they were working on, including their brand new Premium Economy product.

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New Austrian Airlines Premium Economy seat on display

This is the same seat that Lufthansa are using for their product, but customised for Austrian.  It will receive it’s commercial launch very shortly, with all aircraft being refitted by March 2018, by which time it will be launched fully.  In the meantime, as the refitted aircraft come on stream, they will be upgrading people free of charge based on status.

After that, it was time to head out and see the airport operations, including a tour of the fire and police station, as well as some of the very impressive snow clearing equipment they have for winter operations.

As you can see, the fire service were very friendly!

The snow clearing equipment was very impressive.  There was a huge hangar, filled to the brim with snow plough after snow plough!

I know having flown into Salzburg and Innsbruck during the winter, how efficient the Austrian’s snow clearing efforts are during the winter months – clearly Vienna Airport has also invested significantly in their capabilities.

After the airport tour was over, we returned to have lunch at Austrian Airlines HQ, in their staff canteen, which was also catered by Do&Co.  It was quite fun to sit around and watch all the comings and goings of the flight and cabin crew, looking very smart in their bright red uniforms.

Back at the conference centre Austrian had set up a little expo, with managers from across their business on hand to answer questions about all aspects of their product.

They had their head of digital talking about their interactive seat plans, their head of connectivity was talking about their FlyNet shorthaul internet access service and the new Premium Economy product was on show to try out.

Overall, for a small airline, I was very impressed.  My impression is that the Lufthansa Group is using them as a small, nimble part of the business that’s quickly able to try out new ideas before rolling them out across the rest of the group’s airlines.

After that, it was time to return to the hotel for a nap before the evening’s reception at the Private Jet terminal.

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View from the balcony of the VIP / General Aviation terminal at Vienna Airport over the apron

Again, senior executives from Austrian hosted us; the drinks flowed and the Do&Co canapés were delicious.

There were some interesting tidbits that came out of the evening, including some fascinating insights in to the process for bidding into the remnants of Air Berlin.

As other media sources have reported, IAG has bid for elements of the airline, which was a surprise to Lufthansa.  EasyJet, Nikki Lauda, and some other private equity firms are also competing for parts of the airline.  There was meant to be a creditors meeting on Thursday 21st, however due to the German elections, that was postponed until Monday 25th; that’s when their fate is expected to be publicly announced.

Overall it was a fascinating and enjoyable day, with some great hospitality from Austrian Airlines and Vienna Airport.  They’re certainly a carrier that I’d love to try on long haul given my outstanding experience with the group partner, Swiss.

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