” What is a mileage run? ”
Keri just posted about a Mileage Run, and one question we get a lot when we write these posts is, what is a Mileage Run?
There are two different camps in the frequent flier miles tricks and tips community:
- Those trying to get and keep frequent flier status
- Those wanting to fly for free.
It’s a venn diagram, so you’ll have people in both camps. But when you fly for free using airline miles, you do not earn what are called “Elite Qualifying Miles”–the miles needed to earn elite status on airlines.
In order to earn these Elite Qualifying Miles, you are going to have to pay for your flight.
Keri falls into both camps more than I do–and this is because of the constraint this presents. The more time you spend taking free trips, the less time you have to earn elite status. And while you are off earning elite status, you may give up opportunities to take free trips just because of time constraints. Since I travel so much for work, it is hard finding time to take amazing, exotic vacations to far off places, and I live vicariously through Keri.
I earn a lot of my status from business travel. I make sure I always book on US Airways when possible, and their prices are usually the most reasonable out of my airport–Washington Reagan. But I’m an overachiever (Keri is too!) and I want to make sure I finish the year with top status. So that’s when I start mileage running.
A mileage run is flying to an area for the sole purpose of gaining elite qualifying miles.
Frequent fliers will try to find routes that cost the cheapest for going the furthest distance possible. This is called “lowest cent per mile”, or CPM. People will fly cross-country, or even to another country! to earn the miles. The exact miles you fly count towards your status, so that’s why you literally want to find each mile for the cheapest you can find it. (Some airlines will offer bonus miles on short routes, but that’s the exception). This is also called Price Per Mile, or PPM.
Usually these trips last one day. People will fly in and immediately fly out. Keri and I will sometimes do these types of flights called, “same day turn-arounds.” Other times, we’ll stay overnight and fit something. When we can get a flight to San Francisco for low CPM, we may use our hotel points to stay overnight and enjoy the area.
We’ll frequent the wineries we like out in Napa and Sonoma then head on back home the next day. We’re doing it mostly for the points, but I have to admit–it feels great to feel like jetsetters, running off to Napa on a whim.
Though, sometimes people think we are crazy–like when we go to Hawaii for four hours.
So, should you do a mileage run? It depends on what you want. Elite status can offer free checked baggage, first class upgrades, and other perks. But make sure you look into a program specifically to see if mileage running is worth it to you.
Here are some resources on Mileage Runs, both from here and other blogs:
How to Do a Mileage Run
- Booking a Mileage Run — Hack My Trip
- Booking a trip at a low CPM — Hack My Trip
- Why Direct Flights are Bad for Elite Status
- When Do Mileage Runs Make Sense?
- Warning: Doing a Mileage Run Like This May Make Immigration Suspicious (I learned after the fact. You can see the whole story in parts at the bottom)
- And to get a full taste of what people will do to earn these elite qualifying miles: The Wandering Aramean is crazy.
Where We’ve Been
- Four Hours in Hawaii
- Easter Island
- An Hour in Alaska
- 24 Hours in San Diego
- 7 Hours in Pensacola
- 3 Hours in Jamaica
- A Complete Turn-around Fight to Bahamas
Program Specific Information
- Making the Most of a US Airways Trial for Elite Status
- Should You Buy for Status or Fly for Status on US Airways?
- Getting Quick Status on US Airways
- Thinking Through American Airlines Status Challenges
But I think the real answer to the question, What is a mileage run? is: Usually, an adventure!
What are your questions about mileage runs? And if you’ve been on one, what’s your favorite?
(If you are a blogger, feel free to post your articles on mileage runs too!)