From (A)irbus to (Z)agreb: Behind the scenes with Star Alliance at MegaDo 2019

Oct 22, 2019

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What’s the biggest aviation-geek event of the year? MegaDo, of course, which over the years has built a reputation as the event for people who adore commercial aviation. This year, the 2019 MegaDo featured a Star Alliance theme, and took place on the ground and in the skies of Germany and Croatia over the course of five days last week.

The organizers of MegaDo gave TPG U.K. tickets to attend along with one of our readers. On day one, our lucky competition winner Peter Brownlees and I found ourselves meeting at Frankfurt Airport, excited about an itinerary that promised behind-the-scenes events and experiences with airlines — and even a flight on our very own chartered Airbus A320.

MegaDo is especially popular in the U.S., but this year’s attendees travelled from as far as Brazil, Australia, China, India and Singapore.

The first two days saw events, presentations and focus groups in Frankfurt by representatives from Marriott, Star Alliance, Frankfurt Airport and a number of airlines. Attendees also got to tour a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8, a Singapore Airlines A380 and a sneak preview of the new Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport. And then we got our very own Airbus A320, chartered from Croatia Airlines.

TPG UK competition winner Peter Brownless and Christian Kramer geeking over the Croatia Airlines A320 - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
TPG UK competition winner Peter Brownless and I geeking over the Croatia Airlines A320. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Tuesday was an AvGeek dream day that started with a 7:30 a.m. flight from Frankfurt to Hamburg aboard the A320. Excitement built up the night before when MegaDo attendees successfully tracked the movements of our A320 and her inbound journey to Frankfurt via FlightRadar24. It was a gathering of 106 aviation enthusiasts after all.

Though not quite in the league of some VIP charter aircraft, the A320 was ours for the day, which meant that it wasn’t quite your standard short-haul flight. We had access to the aircraft before, during and after flights to geek out. Service was most definitely a notch above normal, and three auction winners got the chance to sit in the cockpit for takeoffs in Frankfurt and Hamburg as well as the approach into Dubrovnik.

In case you are tempted to do this yourself, a chartered A320 will likely set you back $65,000 for the day!

After the hour-long flight to Hamburg, we were treated to a tour of the Airbus facilities in the German town, including the assembly line of the Airbus A321.

Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Fuselage of the A359 - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
Fuselages of the A350 ready for assembly. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
The only Boeing aircraft at the Airbus facilities is the
The only Boeing aircraft at the Airbus facilities is the “Guppy”, which was used to transport aircraft parts between Airbus facilities and is now preserved. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Today Airbus uses the Beluga to fly parts between its various factories and assembly lines in Europe - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
Today Airbus uses the Beluga to fly parts between its various factories and assembly lines in Europe. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Tour of the Airbus A321 assembly line - Image courtesy of MegaDo / Airbus
Tour of the Airbus A321 assembly line. (Photo courtesy of MegaDo/Airbus)
Airbus A321 assembly line tour - Image courtesy of MegaDo / Airbus
Airbus A321 assembly line tour. (Photo courtesy of MegaDo/Airbus)
Tour of the Airbus A321 assembly line - Image courtesy of MegaDo / Airbus
Tour of the Airbus A321 assembly line. (Photo courtesy of MegaDo/Airbus)
Image courtesy of MegaDo/ Airbus
(Photo courtesy of MegaDo/Airbus)

After the Airbus tour, we headed back to the airport to board our plane for our next flight to Dubrovnik. Lunch on board this two-hour flight was served by the Croatia Airlines crew, though other attendees added to the inflight service, including a round of German schnapps.

Lunch abroad our chartered Croatia Airlines flight - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
Lunch abroad our chartered Croatia Airlines flight – Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
TPG UK competition winner Peter Brownless
TPG UK competition winner Peter Brownless enjoying a round of German schnapps. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Arriving in Dubrovnik, we were treated to a beach party by Marriott at the Sheraton, rounded off with a performance by a local dance group.

Arrival in Dubrovnik - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
Arrival in Dubrovnik. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Image courtesy of MegaDo
(Photo courtesy of MegaDo)

After a long day, we had one more sector to Zagreb with the A320. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a water cannon salute at the airport, as well as a drinks reception hosted by Croatia Airlines in the now-vacant former terminal building.

Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
The old unused terminal at Zagreb Airport - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
The old, unused terminal at Zagreb Airport. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Though hard to imagine, the next day may actually have topped the AvGeek dream come true even further. Attendees were treated to both a tour of the new terminal at Zagreb Airport as well as the Croatia Airlines maintenance facility, which is used by a number of other airlines.

Zagreb airport
Zagreb airport’s baggage handling facilities. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Croatia Airlines maintenance facilities at Zagreb airport. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
C-checks being carried out on an Airbus A321 - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
C-checks being carried out on an Airbus A321. (Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

The event rounded off with lunch served under the wing — literally — of a Condor Airbus 321.

Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

After five days of geeking out with fellow aviation enthusiasts and newfound friends, some incredible events and tours, it was time to bid farewell and start various journeys home. I for one, am looking forward to MegaDo 2020.

A happy avgeek - Image by Christian Kramer / The Points Guy
(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)
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