February 13, 2012

Extreme fliers: They love flying, they really, really do (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES – Four flights, five cities and two continents in five days.

A grueling week's work for a high-powered road warrior maybe. But not for about 170 travel fanatics who ended a fast-moving trek here two weeks ago.

It was their idea of a vacation — a chance for behind-the-scenes access to how an airline operates and to socialize with other extreme fliers who love air travel and racking up hundreds of thousands of frequent-flier miles each year.

They paid from $799 to more than $4,000 to participate in what's called MegaDo, an event sponsored by American Airlines and its Oneworld alliance partners to give the hardiest of fliers insight on everything from why flights are canceled to a ride down a plane's emergency exit chute. They jetted from New York to London, Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle and then here.

"It's a travel junkie field trip. That's really the best way to describe it," says Tommy Danielsen, the man who founded the idea of MegaDo in 2009.

The events — with the first three involving United, Lufthansa and other Star Alliance airlines' frequent fliers before the one this year with American for Oneworld alliance fliers — were created to cater to the whimsies of the "junkies," the most extreme fliers.

Attending one offers insight into a rare breed of traveler in a day when many people loathe everything about flying commercially: the security lines, hours in crowded planes, and inevitable delays and cancellations.

Their love of flying and all things related to it far exceeds the enthusiasm that the George Clooney ultrafrequent business traveler character in the 2009 film Up in the Air exuded. For them, going somewhere is almost secondary to just getting there on a plane.

"Everybody's got their hobbies," says one of them, Darren Mak, president of the Winnipeg-based IT services company DigitalWeb. "Some people like to garden, some people collect stamps. And, for me, it's flying."

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