Oh My – I am Actually Considering a Quasi-Mileage Run

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I’m certain it is in writing somewhere that I will not do a mileage run (but please – don’t feel obligated to find that and re-post it for me!).  😉  I am sure that was 100% true at the time it was written, but life keeps on moving and changing, and now this quasi-mileage run is sounding more and more logical for me.  I can’t tell if I truly have gone crazy, or if I would truly be crazy to not do it.  Which way is up in this rabbit hole??

First things first, for those who have no clue what a mileage run is, it is a flight you take pretty much purely in order to earn miles.  More often than not it is the elite qualifying miles that are actively sought, with the redeemable miles being a nice bonus.  If that still doesn’t make sense, ask in the comments and I will do my best to explain further.  Normally mileage runs happen under a few different scenarios.  They typically happen when a very low or mistake fare is found, when an airline is running a promotion for something like double elite qualifying miles, or it is the end of a year and someone is a few (thousand) miles short of getting to the next elite threshold for the following year.

I was previously not interested in doing a mileage run because I wasn’t really flying enough on paid travel for elite status to be a realistic goal.  I flew primarily for leisure, and primarily on award tickets that earned no miles.  That has been changing somewhat as I have more flights that are now on paid tickets.  Also, even just a year ago leaving my kiddo at home for a day or two while I was off flying around was much harder than it is now that she is a little bit older.  However, I was by no means out looking for a mileage run opportunity….one just kind of landed in my lap.

As a perk of going on the OneWorld MegaDO, there is a post-DO challenge available that awards 3x redeemable miles on all purchased flights flown from March 1, 2012 through May 31, 2012, if you increase the number of miles flown on American Airlines by 100% compared to the same time period in 2011.  Since I didn’t from AA at all during that time in 2011, that requirement is an easy one for me.  3x miles for all flights taken is pretty great by itself, but that is just a part of the story.  I was originally going to say that until March 31st, American Airlines also has a public promotion that awards double elite qualifying miles and double redeemable miles for residents of TX, CA, and IL on round-trip flights from Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles, Orange County* or San Francisco or between Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles or San Francisco, but just as I went to add the link it to that promo tonight, I saw that it is now extended though June 30th!

The reason any of this matters to me is that because of the OWMD, I already have 17,500 elite qualifying miles on American Airlines for 2012.  I need just 7,500 more elite qualifying miles to qualify for their lowest elite tier, AAdvantage Gold.  You can go here to see a listing of all of the benefits associated with that elite status.  However, some of the stand-outs for me are:

  • 25% mileage bonus on flights with American and some partners
  • 500 mile minimum on all flights (this is a biggie for me since Houston to Dallas (a typical flight for me when flying AA since Dallas is a hub) is normally only around 224 miles, so this bumps that up to over double
  • Complimentary access to preferred seats
  • Priority boarding and check-in
  • Same day stand-by for a different flight free of charge on flights in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean
  • Two free checked bags
  • Close-in fee waiver for award tickets
  • Earn and/or purchase 500 mile upgrades
  • Access to the elite phone desk

While those benefits aren’t as stellar as top-tier elite status, they are a dramatic improvement over what I have with no status.  What makes this decision a bit trickier is that I am not by nature an American Airlines flyer since I live in Houston – a (new) United fortress.  I already am on track to fly at least the 25,000 miles required on United this year to get low tier elite status, but if I am able to get status with American first, then I could request a status challenge to United in order to get access to the United elite benefits a bit sooner.  United’s low tier elite benefits aren’t overly generous, but again, they are much better than what I have now.

A few of the highlights of being a low-tier elite (Premier Silver) with United are:

  • Complimentary space-available upgrades
  • Access to Economy + seating at check-in for me and one companion
  • 500 mile minimums – again super useful for me on the Houston to Austin route
  • Better “saver” award availability
  • Reduced fees for award changes and redeposits
  • Priority boarding and check-in (though I already get that with my MileagePlus credit card)
  • One free checked bag (though I already get that with my MileagePlus credit card)

I am now traveling enough that these reduced or waived fees for many things would make a difference.  I also would be more than happy to have a few opportunities to move up to domestic First Class.  I know that low tier elites are at the bottom of the food chain there, but at least you are on the food chain.

So, because of all of those reasons, I am strongly considering heading to San Fransisco on American for the night in the near future.  If I flew from Dallas – San Fransisco and back, the flight would likely cost me around $300, at current rates.  The flight would get me about 2920 base redeemable and elite qualifying miles.  However with the current double elite qualifying miles promo for that route, I would end up with 5,840 elite miles.  That would leave me with just 1660 additional elite miles to earn until I reach Gold elite status.  I would also earn 5,840 redeemable miles that would go toward future award flights.

That also stacks with the OneWorld MegaDO promo that awards 3x miles in my case.  Although I think it says 200% of the base miles, so I am assuming I would not be “paid” again for base miles, so in effect it would be an additional 2x – though I would love to be wrong about that.  Assuming that just results in an additional 2x, that would bring my total redeemable miles for that 2,920 mile flight to 11,680.  That is almost half of a free domestic ticket just by flying one trip!  Crazy. 

I also have never been to San Fransisco, and would love to spend a night in that city (and pick up another qualifying night at a hotel).  So, it wouldn’t be a true mileage run where I never left the airport, but it would certainly be a trip that was motivated by miles and elite benefits.

Am I crazy to do it, or crazy not to?

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  1. I think you are crazy. I can understand someone wanting to go the extra mile to reach top tier status, but the first tier is nothing but a cold shower. Well, maybe it is better on AA, but on UA my primary benefits over the Chase credit card is now economy plus seating at check-in. So, it seems my UA silver status gets me a e+ middle seat. That is not fun travelling alone or with companions.

  2. I think you are crazy not to. One of the benefits I love is being able to select the preferred seats on AA flights. Granted, as a Gold upgrades will be rare (I was about 10% when I was Gold), but the elite status is definitely worth it!
    Also, let me know if you need any suggestions for things to do in SF (I live near SF).

  3. You know my answer. Do it. You’re crazy not to. Don’t forget that you can use AA discount codes – lmk if you need to know how to find, but I’m almost positive you know where these are ;). And then if you can get some AA gift cards at Costco, that’s effectively another 10% savings. The way I read the offers, you effectively will be earning 4x RDMs and 2x EQMs. I fully expect you to have enough miles for 3 TPAC F tix (QF to SYD / CX from HKG)!

    Btw, the DEQ11 offer is valid for residents of CA/IL/TX (NOT FL, as you said in your post).

  4. @Carste Varming – Gold on AA is way better than Silver on UA. And frankly, if MommyPoints is willing to make a few more runs, Platinum is in reach – and AA Plat is currently way better than UA Gold and UA Plat because of the 100% bonus RDMs and the reasonable opportunities to UPG to F.

  5. You’ve convinced me that you’d be crazy not to do it. Especially since it’ll be your first time to SFO. In my opinion it’s crazy doing mileage runs just to earn the miles. The closest I’ve come to doing that was years ago on America West, going PHX-EWR, but connecting in Vegas for the (then) extra 750 miles when I could’ve gone non-stop. Earning free travel is more important to me than earning elite status, but I may be in the minority there. But your situation seems to be deserving of the mileage run. Do it!

  6. While I haven’t done a mileage run yet, as I haven’t needed to, I would suffer severe withdrawals losing me exp status with aa. I would do mileage runs to keep it if needed. So the question is are you crazy to do a mileage run? You are asking the wrong community. The answer is: we are all crazy here and loving it. Chasing your passion is always the right thing to do. Put another way, GO FOR IT!

  7. One more reason to go for Plat: AA’s “soft landing” policy, such that if you don’t requalify for your status level, you drop down one status level each year until you become a general member again.

  8. One more reason to go for Plat: AA’s “soft landing” policy, such that if you don’t requalify for your status level, you drop down one status level each year until you become a general member again.

  9. There are so many promotions for getting elite status and RDMs on AA that the benefits are likely to be diluted significantly. I think if you want to hurry along your status on United you should just take a UA mileage run. Spend your money on one airline and you might end up with mid-tier status in one instead of low-tier status in two.

  10. Do it, not for the miles, but for the chance to see San Francisco. Catch the early flight in and the late flight back and have a great time seeing the city!

  11. Oh my God. I can’t believe you have never been to San Francisco. To me there are very few cities that have a unique flavor. Majority of all the big metropolitan cities seem the same. However San Francisco is one exception beside some others and of course my favorite. If I have all the money in the world, San Francisco is the place I would like to be.

  12. @Carsten, I agree that entry level status is not the best, but there are some tangible benefits that would help me. I agree that the MileagePlus Explorer card does give many of the same benefits as Silver on UA.

    @Asen, which is actually pretty significant when traveling with my family’s gear.

    @carwag25, thanks!

    @Michael R, I do have access to a code, so that will knock some off. There isn’t a Costco very close to me, but if I do find myself flying AA more, it will be worth it to find one. 😉

    @Rebecca, thanks!

    @Peggy, I agree it would be harder to justify for myself if I wasn’t going somewhere that I actually do want to go. Thanks!

    @Deals, you are more than welcome to join! Though my run will be on a weekday (if that matters for your schedule). 😉

    @John777, shhhhh. Don’t put any ideas on my head! 😉

    @Jiml, admittedly I am asking a somewhat biased community, but on the other hand, who better to ask than those who know all about elite status? Ha ha.

    @Michael R, what a minute. I’m taking about one trip for Gold and you are already talking about PLT. By tomorrow we’ll be discussing EXP. 😉

    @Scottrick, I totally agree that it makes sense it my case to mostly focus on one program, but since I am so close on AA……. I also agree that the benefits may very well get diluted, but I bet it will take a year or two, esp given the bankruptcy stuff. Just my guess though.

    @MDAccount, I very much want to see San Fran, so that is a huge part of it.

    @Frequent Miler, you would know since you are there right now!

    @caveman, I can’t believe it either – may just have to fix that soon!

    @frequentflyercollector, I strongly considered going, but since I was away from my little one for work this week, I just couldn’t be away again this weekend. It was so tempting though!!

    @Rick I, I know. I should clearly be kicked out of the club. I can show you a cute toddler if that helps. 😉

  13. I live near a Costco that has the AA gift cards being sold at a 10% discount. I bought a bunch for myself last weekend. If you need a couple, I can pick some up. Ive been following your cc apps and your credit seems good ;). I wouldn’t do the mileage run myself but I don’t mind facilitating someone else’s fall to the dark side.

  14. Absolutely do it. That’s an insane amount of RDM/EQMs, plus you get to spend some time in SF, which is a great city! I’m sure you have some hotel points you can use to spend the night, which will keep your cost down. Even low status is better than none if you have any amount of travel planned, and the cost of your ticket will be offset by the checked baggage fees you won’t have to pay.

  15. Hi Mommy Points,

    Why can’t we subscribe to your blog via Email? Almost everyone else has that feature on their blog now. Can you kindly add it please?


    PS: Thanks Scottrick for alerting me about Mommy Points discovery of the AA DEQM11 promotion being extended through June!!

    • @Thunderstorm, I am one of the last ones resisting the email subscription. Perhaps I am making the wrong choice, but I strongly feel that much of the value comes from the discussion in the comments (this post being a prime example), so I really don’t want to encourage people to miss out on that by just having it in their email.

  16. If you expect to ever fly a paid AA flight, Gold is severly underated in these comments. First of all, without elite status, you will frequently be stuck with only middle seat availablilty, while half of the window and aisle seats are still available for Gold and above. If you need to go to the counter to check in for any reason, the 45 minute regular check in line becomes a 3 minute Business checkin window, even with the lowest discount ticket. Boarding ahead of non-elite economy fliers may get you overhead space you might otherwise not get access to. If you need to call AA, there is a special Gold number that gets answered sooner, with a nicer person on the other end to talk to. While prime business time/route flights may be hard to get upgrades on, on our last trip to Cancun, home-DFW, DFW-CUN, CUN-DFW, DFW-home, I was able to get us both upgraded from discount economy to domestic “First” on 3 of the 4 flights due to my lowly Gold status. First time visit to SanFran is just the icing on the cake.

  17. Just saw your previous post about AA double miles being extended on certain routes. Mommy or not, you are quite the Mileage Run Virgin, aren’t you? :>)

    The way I would have handled this, in my pre-Lifetime AA Gold days, is as follows….

    Ticket as a Multi-City r/t flight:
    ourbound DFW-SFO, SFO-ORD
    return ORD-SAN, SAN-DFW

    I just picked May 15 outbound, May 16 return at random. Maybe other dates are lower. Lowest multi-city r/t price for these dates, all in, is $563.20 I’m not familiar with the Costco discount mentioned above, but it sounds like that would lower your r/t ticket price to around $500 for FOUR double miles flights with only one overnight.

    Of course, if “getting the miles” is actually an excuse to get to visit SF, that’s another matter.

  18. Well, as for your little one, there are a few kids here this weekend, and I’m sure there’s plenty here that would love to meet her.

    Tho I’m not sure you’re ready for her to meet a bunch of other mileage junkies…:P

  19. @bluto, I guess I owe you a double thank you. 😉 Thanks so much for using my links and also thank you for your gracious gift card offer. I would feel too bad having you go pick one up just so I could save $30, but thanks a million for the offer! I like to think it’s not falling to the dark side so much as walking more precariously on the tight rope. 😉

    @Aleks, I agree that low is better than none. Thanks!

    @Scottrick, I hear it is awesome!

    @Robert Hanson, thanks for sharing that insight. In playing with availability to SFO, you are indeed correct that all I can get on 3/4 flights is a middle seat unless I want to shell out more cash. I think there is a real value with Gold on AA.

    @Chris S, I thought about that, but at this point it costs more to change that flight to AA than it is to just do a different trip on AA. Good idea though!

    @Robert Hanson, yes, I am a total MR virgin. Not a virgin to the concept, but to the execution. In fact, that is why I call this a quasi MR. It isn’t a true run as I do want to see the city, but I do only have one night I can be away. Otherwise, throwing in an ORD would be a very smart move. 😉

    @Frequent Flyer Collector, I was tempted to bring her. I know our friends 6 month old is there, but trying to listen to Kiva talks with a 2 year old would be hilarious. No chance she would sit still through things like that. She would have had tons of fun during other parts though! (like eating lunch on the plane)

    @Matt, very true with some programs. Those cc benefits do mirror many low tier elite benefits on some. Thanks for sharing.

  20. You are becoming a slut…a status slut like most of us. There is no going back now!! I am actually aiming this to be my last year as a Platinum slut on DL, not worth it anymore…unless DL or AMEX makes it easy for me to requalify by 12/31:-)

  21. If you start in AUS instead of DFW, it’s only $220. Now since you’re not Gold yet, you’d only get 380 extra EQMs and 1140 RDMs, but that’s still $80 savings and you’d cut down your driving too.

  22. I haven’t done a mileage run either… but I’m starting to think about it this year. I think I can probably hit platinum on AA this year… maybe

  23. Haha. Yes, I think you should do it for the experience of doing a milage run. I use to do it with Airtran out of Atlanta, before Southpest bought them. Now when posters comment on being weary of time in the pressurized tube; I know just what they are talking about.
    What really caught my attention about this blog entry was the other recent entry noting that the AA deal between Cal , Tx, and Ill had been extended. As we struggle out of the Great Recession, the question has become whether this ff stuff is to motivate more people to spend more money with the company; or simply to reward those who are going to spend the most money, anyway. I have come down clearly on the side of motivating more consumers to spend more; and I back it up by putting my money where my mouth is.
    If AA had a promo between my state and Texas, I’d probably be doing mileage runs, too.
    Have a nice trip. 😉

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