high-flying adventure!

Don't pull!

I had a totally amazing weekend. I begged off a business trip (sacrilege!) and flew to Houston for an event hosted by Continental Airlines for some of their geekiest and most loyal customers. This is the fourth time they have invited a few hundred people to their headquarters in Texas for two days of interaction, entertainment, and awesome surprises.

At registration, we were asked to rank a series of tours (such as flight simulator, maintenance, test kitchen, etc.). Emilie and I decided to mark the “Mystery Tour” as our top pick, and we got it! They were very tight-lipped about what this tour could be until we got on the bus on Saturday morning. The employee host opened an envelope (labeled “top secret”) and told us, “This morning, you will be taking Flight 9920 from Houston… to Houston.” At first, I assumed this was a joke – perhaps a ground tour on a plane, or a tour of a plane, or a bus trip. But no – they drove us to a hangar and we boarded a 757 for an aerial tour of Texas!!

Flight 9920 was a chartered flight exclusive to the event, and normal commercial policies did not apply. After the plane reached 3000 feet, they brought out champagne and we got up in the aisles to mingle and look out the windows. I’m not sure anyone turned off their cell phones. And – perhaps the most exciting part – they opened up the cockpit for much of the flight! We got to talk to the pilots, sit in the jump seat, and see what it’s like to be at the front of a 757 (quiet and a little lonely, I’d say). A champagne toast at 10000 feet, outside the cockpit? Priceless. It was hard to believe this really happened! And now I’m totally spoiled… our flight back had neither champagne nor an open cockpit.

The theme of the weekend was “Fun & Games,” and Continental executed every aspect of the event perfectly. There were game shows and prizes at each reception. Food and drink was exceptional, and everyone left with some goodies – porcelain cups and saucers from their BusinessFirst collection, BusinessFirst pillows and blankets (much nicer than the ones they use for domestic flights), toiletries, etc. It was an event clearly designed to boost loyalty and revenue among frequent flyers, and I’m sure it worked. Some photos are posted here.

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