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Most of what I do to earn and use points is “normal”. Well, normal-ish. It is normal to use credit cards, buy paper towels, dog food, and gift cards, but perhaps buying them in the exact ways I sometimes do isn’t normal. Still, it isn’t too crazy most of the time. Today, however, is a little crazy.
Today, while the kid is at school, I’ll be flying to Detroit and back just for the miles. I won’t even be leaving the airport. Yup, an old-fashioned-mileage-run.
Mileage runs used to be more common and more lucrative for those in the frequent flyer community back when promos were massive and airfare prices were down. These days they are less common as the big mileage earning promos are rare, fares often aren’t so low anymore, and there is a revenue component to frequent flyer elite status that makes earning status purely by flying on low fares harder with some programs.
I’ve never been a fan of the mileage run for many reasons, and I much prefer a ‘vacation run’ where you hang around in a city at least for a night or two to actually enjoy the travel rather than do the completely asinine thing of never leaving the airport. But sometimes the chips fall in a way that you gotta do what you normally turn away from.
Why Mileage Run?
I mentioned I am doing this for the miles, but what I really mean is that I am doing it primarily for the elite qualifying miles. Elite status still matters to me on my home airline of Untied because we travel enough to get good use out of many of the perks. Best of all, many of my elite status perks trickle down to my husband and daughter as well. When booking with me they also benefit from extra legroom seats, priority boarding, free checked bags, same day change waivers, free award redeposits and changes on award tickets, etc.
Some of the perks are unique to me including the 100% bonus on miles earned flying and upgrades, though I can have one of them designated as my companion on flights. We have gotten very good use out of E+ seats, free same day changes, and protection from award change fees. The confirmed and complimentary upgrades have been nice, too, when they work out.
I’m not going for United 1K status again this year as that is just too much paid flying for me, but I am going for the Platinum level which requires 75,000 eligible flown miles in a calendar year. I realized about half-way through the year that I would likely come close to the 75,000 mile number, but wouldn’t quite get there without a little extra help. Enter the mileage run.
Pouncing on $138 Round Trip First Class Tickets:
I identified the likely need for some extra elite qualifying miles earlier in the year based on projected travel, but that didn’t solve exactly how I was going to accomplish that earning for a reasonably low price. If I pay too much for the extra miles it simply isn’t worth it. Historically mileage-run worthy fares have been 5 cents a mile or less, meaning that a flight that would earn you 5,000 miles would cost $250 or less. That isn’t all that common these days (especially for those of us in the middle of the country), but it certainly does happen from time to time.
One day on the Mileage Run forum of Flyertalk there were reports of flights from Houston – Detroit for $138…in first class. The flights worked out where you could be to Detroit and back during school hours and you would earn 150% of the normal earning rate due to the fare booking into the P fare class for the first class tickets. This came to 3,228 elite qualifying miles and redeemable miles for the fare. I will also earn a 100% bonus on the base miles in the form of redeemable miles as a 1k.
This means a total of 5,380 redeemable miles and 3,228 elite qualifying miles for $138 fare. That is 4.2 cents per elite qualifying miles, which is pretty good. Even better as it is earned while sitting in first class and back home within a work day.
Should You Mileage Run?
No. If you aren’t sure, the answer is no. Don’t do it.
It is wasteful and frustrating to fly somewhere and not enjoy where you are because you don’t leave the airport. That’s not travel, that’s just movement. I’ve had very few pure mileage runs in my past as I much prefer actually check out a city when I fly. But…in this case this was the cheapest and easiest way to earn the remaining miles that I needed for the status level I am after without it having a negative impact on my family.
With mileage runs there is also always the risk of delays and cancellations causing unplanned-for hiccups, so you obviously need someone on stand-by to care for your kiddos if you are delayed. Many who do this will add connections to their routing to increase earnings, and that will also increase the likelihood of delays along the way.
If you can get the miles needed for the next elite status threshold by mileage running at a low cost it can be worth it, but I would have this be the very rare exception to your earning strategy and not the norm. As much as I love to fly, this is still kinda crazy.
Though I gotta say, my view from the “office window” today will be very above average. If you want to see what it’s like to be a “mileage running Mommy for the day”, well, follow along here and on Twitter. It may not be a normal day, but we’re going to make it a fun one!