Mileage Runs: What Are They, How Do They Work?

Mileage Runs: What Are They, How Do They Work?

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Over the years I’ve mentioned mileage runs on this blog more often than I can count, but I realized that I’ve never actually written a specific post about what mileage runs are. So that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, and I especially wanted to reflect on how the math on mileage runs has changed over the years.

Spoiler alert — back in the day mileage running could actually make sense (assuming you enjoy flying), while nowadays it generally doesn’t.

What is a mileage run?

Nope, a mileage run doesn’t involve running. Quite to the contrary, it involves a lot of sitting.

Put as simply as possible, a mileage run is when you fly for the sole purposes of accumulating airline miles or airline elite status. This could come in the form of a year-round hobby, or an end-of-the-year jaunt to qualify for elite status. These are generally quick trips, and in many cases, people who mileage run may fly somewhere without even leaving the airport.

Airline frequent flyer programs are incredibly addictive to many, both when it comes to maximizing your rewards for flying, and when it comes to maximizing your rewards from credit card spending. Mileage runs are an extension of that.

Mileage runs may involve not even leaving the airport

What are the types of mileage runs?

There are different types of mileage runs, so let’s go over each of them. There are mileage runs to earn airline miles, mileage runs to earn airline elite status, and then hybrid mileage run vacations (that last one isn’t a “real” mileage run, though, at least for mileage run purists).

Mileage runs to earn airline elite status

Airline frequent flyer programs can offer lots of valuable elite perks, from complimentary upgrades, to bonus miles, to lounge access. Earning elite status can be a big motivation for people to take a mileage run.

For example, often people may end the year just short of qualifying for the next elite status tier, and they decide that taking a trip is worth it due to all the value they’ll get out of the incremental status. Admittedly some people are much more extreme about this, and may take several mileage runs (or even mileage run from “scratch”) in order to earn a certain elite tier.

Airline elite status can offer lots of valuable perks

Mileage runs to earn airline miles

Other people mileage run in order to earn redeemable airline miles. This is separate from elite status, as airline miles can be redeemed for flights, and often first & business class tickets represent a great deal when redeeming airline miles.

Sometimes the economics work out so that the miles you earn from a trip can be worth more to you than what you’re paying for that ticket. As I’ll explain below, this generally isn’t nearly as lucrative as it used to be, due to how airline frequent flyer programs have changed.

Hybrid mileage run vacations

There’s a third category of mileage runs, which probably holds the most general appeal nowadays, and which is easiest to justify. Think of it as being half mileage run, half vacation. For example, the trip can be worth it for a combination of the elite status and airline miles you earn, but you also found a great fare to a destination you really want to visit.

Rather than just flying straight there and back and not seeing anything, you could turn it into a long weekend trip, and visit a destination that has been on your bucket list for a while.

I’ve visited Hong Kong many times on hybrid mileage runs

The economics of mileage runs have changed

The economics of mileage running have changed significantly in the past decade, due to how many airlines have changed their frequent flyer programs. Broadly speaking:

  • Back in the day airlines awarded miles based on the distance you flew, rather than how much you spent
  • Many airlines have introduced a revenue requirement for earning elite status, making it harder to qualify for status with cheap tickets
  • Airlines have watered down elite status perks, making it less worthwhile to earn elite status through mileage running
  • Airlines have largely devalued miles, meaning that you largely need to redeem more miles for first & business class award tickets
The economics of mileage runs have changed a lot

Let me give an example of mileage running on American Airlines nowadays vs. seven years ago, with the goal of earning American Airlines’ top-tier Executive Platinum status, which requires 100,000 elite miles in a year.

To keep the example as simple as possible, let’s say you could find a $500 roundtrip ticket from New York to Hong Kong (which is surprisingly common), covering a distance of 20,000 flown miles.

Back in the day:

  • You could fly this ticket five times, and earn 100,000 elite miles, earning you Executive Platinum status
  • That Executive Platinum status would have earned you eight systemwide upgrades, each good for an upgrade on a long haul flight
  • When it comes to redeemable miles, American awarded one mile for every mile flown, and Executive Platinum members received a 100% mileage bonus, meaning you would have earned 200,000 AAdvantage miles (give or take)
  • American AAdvantage charged 67,500 miles for one-way first class award tickets between the United States and Asia, so not only would you have earned Executive Platinum status, but you would have had enough miles to book three Cathay Pacific first class one-way tickets

$2,500 for Executive Platinum status, eight systemwide upgrades, and three one-way Cathay Pacific first class award tickets? Assuming you enjoy flying, and you’re not putting an opportunity cost to your time, that’s a heck of a deal.

Back in the day, mileage runs could make a lot of sense

Now let’s compare that to the reality nowadays (not accounting for AAdvantage reducing elite requirements this year in light of the pandemic):

  • You could fly this ticket five times, and earn 100,000 elite miles; however, nowadays AAdvantage has a revenue requirement for status, and you need to spend $15,000 to earn Executive Platinum, so no status for you!
  • Even if you did earn Executive Platinum status, that nowadays comes with fewer systemwide upgrades
  • When it comes to earning redeemable miles, American now awards miles based on dollars spent rather than distance flown, and even if you were an Executive Platinum member, you’d earn at most 11x miles per dollar spent; while you previously would have earned 200,000 AAdvantage miles for these tickets, you’d now earn at most 27,500 AAdvantage miles (accounting for your $2,500 worth of spending)
  • Oh, and the value of your miles has gone way down as well; that Cathay Pacific one-way award that used to cost 67,500 miles now costs 110,000 miles
The math on mileage runs has changed a lot over the years

Are mileage runs still worth it?

Nowadays I’d say mileage runs are really only worthwhile at the margins:

  • If you want to earn redeemable miles to redeem for first & business class travel, many airline frequent flyer programs sell miles at attractive costs
  • If you’re trying to earn elite status there could be value in mileage running if you’re close (maybe taking a trip or two at the end of the year), but if you’re starting from scratch, the revenue requirement with many programs nowadays limits the usefulness of it

To give you a sense of the thought process, see my recent post about my American Airlines Executive Platinum status conundrum this year.

I’m considering a year end mileage run with American

Bottom line

Mileage running is flying for the sole purpose of earning airline miles or airline elite status. Back in the day this was a practice that many people in our community took advantage of, given how airline frequent flyer programs were structured.

Nowadays the economics just don’t work out as well as they used to — airlines have largely devalued frequent flyer elite perks and mileage redemptions, and if you want to earn miles, you can often buy miles directly from airlines at an attractive rate.

I think mileage runs could still make sense if it’s the end of the year and you’re not far from the next elite tier, but that’s about it.

Have you ever taken a mileage run? Does anyone think the economics of mileage running still make sense beyond an end of the year mileage run?

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  1. Carl B

    I'm still doing mileage runs for as many miles flown. United Airlines has an amazing Million Miler program that gives you status for life once you've flown the 1, 2, 3, and 4 million miles on United metal. At 4 million miles, you get Global Services for life and this is the only published way of attaining Global Services. I'm still a ways away from my first 1MM, but I have my eyes set on...

    I'm still doing mileage runs for as many miles flown. United Airlines has an amazing Million Miler program that gives you status for life once you've flown the 1, 2, 3, and 4 million miles on United metal. At 4 million miles, you get Global Services for life and this is the only published way of attaining Global Services. I'm still a ways away from my first 1MM, but I have my eyes set on GS for life. Go big or go home. Another perk of this program is that you get to select a companion annually to share the same status as you do.

  2. Nick

    Currently flying weekly mileage runs for Alaska 75k! A quick 30 minute flight between PDX and SEA each way is getting me 2300 elite status miles each week. (500 mile minimum on a 129 mile flight, Purchased first class fare bonus, and Fast Track To Status 50% bonus.)

    Getting work done in the lounge on each side makes it a nice alternate work site for a half day or so.

  3. Jimmy K

    Hi Ben, really enjoying these articles about general aviation themes. They're way out of my sphere as an occasional leisure flyer, but so interesting to read. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  4. Jared Janhsen

    I think mileage runs on AA only make sense for people flying AA on their employer's dime under the present program. I hit EQDs for executive platinum every year, but never EQMs or EQSs because I fly from DFW on a lot of short and direct flights. I come up just enough short to make it worth a mileage/segment run or two.

  5. Taylor

    I've only done 1 mileage run in my life - about 5 years ago when I was ~2000 miles short of United 1K status. I flew DCA-TPA-EWR-BWI in one day for about $200. To me, it was well worth it to bump up to 1K for the next year. While I achieved the goal and it was a fairly reasonable day, I decided that if I ever needed mileage towards the end of the year...

    I've only done 1 mileage run in my life - about 5 years ago when I was ~2000 miles short of United 1K status. I flew DCA-TPA-EWR-BWI in one day for about $200. To me, it was well worth it to bump up to 1K for the next year. While I achieved the goal and it was a fairly reasonable day, I decided that if I ever needed mileage towards the end of the year in the future, I would just take a long weekend trip somewhere instead. It would have been much more enjoyable to go to Tampa for a few days just to walk around or go to the beach or eat at a restaurant or whatever -- it felt sub-optimal to fly somewhere and never leave the airport (even as someone who LOVES airports).

  6. Erica T

    I love when Alaska has cheap fares from SEA to JFK. There is always a group of mileage runners on the weekends and we meet up in the lounge to have a chat until the flight home. The math works out to be less than you could purchase the miles and you get the status credit too.

  7. Weymar Osborne

    I'm considering doing a mileage run for the first time ever to maintain Star Alliance Gold through Asiana. I need 3650 miles to requalify before March, 2022. OZ extended status during the pandemic but they were rather late to the party and they've always struck me as a company that is a little disorganized behind the scenes, so I'm not confident at all that it will be extended again. I'm actually hoping to move to...

    I'm considering doing a mileage run for the first time ever to maintain Star Alliance Gold through Asiana. I need 3650 miles to requalify before March, 2022. OZ extended status during the pandemic but they were rather late to the party and they've always struck me as a company that is a little disorganized behind the scenes, so I'm not confident at all that it will be extended again. I'm actually hoping to move to Japan for work later this year so I could easily take care of it then, although I had been hoping to redeem my accumulated miles for a business class ticket for that (That's the problem with being into this hobby but only managing to fly a few times a year! You earn all these miles but you don't want to redeem them because you won't earn elite credit for those flights.). If I could find something on UA from Ohio to the West Coast somewhere that would hopefully be enough to put me over.

  8. Sexy_kitten7

    Great story and comments! You occasionally see PQP (or the equivalent I can't keep up anymore) run requests on FT. Yes, people actually need help figuring out how to spend x dollars. I got off the elite treadmill when UA screwed us.

  9. Jonathan

    This and next year (much better this year with bonuses), mileage run is much much easier with Delta since MQMs/MQDs can be earned from award tickets. There's even a 50% or 75% MQM bonus for this year.

    Also all MQMs (not MQDs) balances been rolling over since 2019 each but for typical years only excess unused MQMs rollover if you are at any level of elite. If you typically reach the waiver through credit...

    This and next year (much better this year with bonuses), mileage run is much much easier with Delta since MQMs/MQDs can be earned from award tickets. There's even a 50% or 75% MQM bonus for this year.

    Also all MQMs (not MQDs) balances been rolling over since 2019 each but for typical years only excess unused MQMs rollover if you are at any level of elite. If you typically reach the waiver through credit card requirements, then you can bank quite an amount of MQMs for a few years of high level status.

    Those that meet MQD waiver with CC in 2022 will have status thru January 2024; if regular rules resume next year, then any excess that rolls over will count towards 2024 status thru January 2025 if they meet MQD requirement or CC waiver.

    I would not bank too much since rules and requirements can change at anytime

  10. Uncle Markie

    Here's to the others that have pointed out that Alaska is still "butt in seat" mileage based, says the newly minted MVP Gold 100K (115,000 EQM this year, and counting).

  11. Andrew

    Being on the West Coast, I'm happy Alaska's elite program still doesn't have a spending requirement.

  12. Andrew

    Great article. I’m currently on another outlier: fast track status on a hybrid mileage run. Platinum Pro for 18,000 miles and $3k EQD.

    Bought a nice BA / Finnair business round trip, and I’m in Copenhagen for the week.

  13. Steve

    Feel like Hotel runs are more beneficial these days. Did a few earlier this year with Hyatt when they had the promo on cat 1 nights for just 3750 point. "stayed" at the hyatt place by my house for a week in february. That plus the card got me globalist from Feb 2021 to feb 2023!

  14. John T

    Really enjoying all these fun 'back to basics' guides you've been writing recently Ben!

  15. fatty380

    I used to love mileage runs and would do same day turnaround at SE asia airport but not anymore, because I’m too old for this crap and airline status isn’t what it used to be.

    Would prefer to save money and buy PE or J fare and go where I want to go than throwing money at airline that don’t care about you. Just get off from hamster wheel and you realize you won’t...

    I used to love mileage runs and would do same day turnaround at SE asia airport but not anymore, because I’m too old for this crap and airline status isn’t what it used to be.

    Would prefer to save money and buy PE or J fare and go where I want to go than throwing money at airline that don’t care about you. Just get off from hamster wheel and you realize you won’t miss it much as you thought it. Use your money to invest, etc then you can use money to splurge on nice J trip.

    1. Steve

      Same here, but i think that is also a product of us getting older, being better at what we do professionally and money meaning less and time meaning more. When i was 26 i loved having exec platinum and would do mile runs, now at 33 im fine with gold. Much easier to just buy domestic first and save or use miles for J. Also the past few years not having AA plat or exec...

      Same here, but i think that is also a product of us getting older, being better at what we do professionally and money meaning less and time meaning more. When i was 26 i loved having exec platinum and would do mile runs, now at 33 im fine with gold. Much easier to just buy domestic first and save or use miles for J. Also the past few years not having AA plat or exec plat its allowed me to fly more SW, Delta and Alaska where in the past i only look at AA. Now if i have the choice of AA economy for $200 or alaska first for $300 im choosing alaska every time. Being a free agent can have its perks.

    2. fatty380

      my friends who cling to hamster wheel usually come up with silly justifications such as "i am getting more miles" (i am like you could buy miles on sale and redeem from your couch than grind it out in metal tube) and "look at me, i got upgraded on 2 hour flight" which I could survive just fine on WN or whatever. Guess airlines know there are some people who is "married" to status and...

      my friends who cling to hamster wheel usually come up with silly justifications such as "i am getting more miles" (i am like you could buy miles on sale and redeem from your couch than grind it out in metal tube) and "look at me, i got upgraded on 2 hour flight" which I could survive just fine on WN or whatever. Guess airlines know there are some people who is "married" to status and will do anything to maintain. Not me, but yeah, guess more older we are, more likely to have money to afford nice flight rides.

  16. Jay Smith

    In the good ol' days, whenever I was close to the end of the year without qualifying segments, I had a student riding the bus between two (unnamed) European cities with a ticket under my name. It was about $10 for the bus and $20 for the (extremely bewildered) young man. The bus trip had a flight number and qualified as a "flight" and IDs were not checked.

    I know, a bit too extreme,...

    In the good ol' days, whenever I was close to the end of the year without qualifying segments, I had a student riding the bus between two (unnamed) European cities with a ticket under my name. It was about $10 for the bus and $20 for the (extremely bewildered) young man. The bus trip had a flight number and qualified as a "flight" and IDs were not checked.

    I know, a bit too extreme, but I was spending a lot of $$$ on short hops in C (how about $1,000 for a RT ticket on a 300 mile, 45 minute flight) so it didn't really feel like cheating... particularly when the airline decided to impose an expiry date on previously un-expirable miles and I had to spend five hours on a physical queue to get award tickets in exchange for my 700,000 miles.

    Today, mileage runs seem to make sense for US-based flyers only, if for anyone at all.

  17. AA

    My favourite mileage runs were the ones were it was the last flight out to somewhere, and then the first flight back in the morning....when the crew from the outbound now heading back, recognise you in the same seat as the day before.

    1. Jay Smith

      Even better. I had a couple of runs flying in&out on the same plane. Before internet check-in, that required rushing out of the plane, go to the counter, get the boarding pass and rush back through security to board as the last passenger on the same plane. This only worked on small airports of course...cannot imagine doing it CDG. Depending on who was asking, I confessed the mileage run, I tried to look as the...

      Even better. I had a couple of runs flying in&out on the same plane. Before internet check-in, that required rushing out of the plane, go to the counter, get the boarding pass and rush back through security to board as the last passenger on the same plane. This only worked on small airports of course...cannot imagine doing it CDG. Depending on who was asking, I confessed the mileage run, I tried to look as the International Man of Mistery, or I said I was a courier.

    2. trajan81

      Mileage Ran the IAD-KWI-BAH loop like crazy back in the day....and was usually a crew of us doing the same thing too. Good times, but sadly no more.

    3. Carl B

      This happened to me on an EWR-SJU-IAD mileage run two weeks ago. I was on the ground for about 60 minutes in Puerto Rico and had time to freshen up and change shirts. I walked onto the next plane and recognized the two FAs on my previous flight and I immediately told them that I changed shirts because I had a feeling that would trip them up a bit. It definitely broke the ice with...

      This happened to me on an EWR-SJU-IAD mileage run two weeks ago. I was on the ground for about 60 minutes in Puerto Rico and had time to freshen up and change shirts. I walked onto the next plane and recognized the two FAs on my previous flight and I immediately told them that I changed shirts because I had a feeling that would trip them up a bit. It definitely broke the ice with the two FAs for that flight and they even joked to me that for a second they thought it was my twin walking into their plane. I was able to chat with them in the galley instead of just chilling in my seat and that made it a fun flight.

  18. DCS

    I just completed a couple of mileage runs that both allowed me to retain my UA Premier 1K status and earn 62,000 redeemable miles.

    The UA 1K status retention was the result of UA's "Fly to the Finish" promo that allows existing elites to retain their status by meeting certain PQP/PQF requirements. To retain my 1K status I simply needed to do a mileage run that earned me 3K PQP by end of November....

    I just completed a couple of mileage runs that both allowed me to retain my UA Premier 1K status and earn 62,000 redeemable miles.

    The UA 1K status retention was the result of UA's "Fly to the Finish" promo that allows existing elites to retain their status by meeting certain PQP/PQF requirements. To retain my 1K status I simply needed to do a mileage run that earned me 3K PQP by end of November.

    To earn the 62,000, I needed to complete 2 trips costing at least $1,000 each by the end of September, as part of a targeted UA offer called "Mile Play".

    The combined "grand prize" of 1K retention and 62K redeemable miles was definitely worth a couple of mileage runs, so I flew JFK to SFO and back, and then JFK to HNL through LAX and back. In the process I got to experience UA's relaunched T-con service from JFK to SFO and to LAX in business class on B767-300 metal. The two mileage runs cost enough to earn me the combined "grand prize."

    After arriving in HNL I met the requirement for earning the 62K bonus miles, which were promptly deposited. I returned from HNL last Tuesday, and some time by last weekend I was shocked when I noticed that I had 550 PlusPoints, UA's new highly flexible cabin upgrade instrument, in my account! What happened is that after I met the requirement to retain my 1K status following my mileage run to HNL, UA simply awarded me the new status immediately (September 2021 to February 2023!), rather than waiting until the current status year ends in Feb 2022. The new 1K status came with 280 new PlusPoints which, combined with 270 PlusPoints that I already had in my account and will expire in Feb 2022, resulted the of 550 PlusPoints that shocked me.

    But that is not all! These are mileage runs that keep on giving! Just for the heck of it, I clicked the link for UA's helpful "status tracker" to confirm that I had, indeed, been awarded my 2022-2023 1K status in September 2021. Sure enough, the display had changed from letting me know how far I still had to go to retain 1K to this:

    Keep flying to earn more PlusPoints

    Keep earning PlusPoints as you fly with United and our Partner Airlines.

    Your next milestone includes + 40 PlusPoints

    9,032 PQP of 10,000

    That is right: I am just 968 PQP shy of earning another 40 PlusPoints, which I will easily do with a trip to FCO coming up in less than 2 weeks! Why will I earn 40K PlusPoint when I hit 10K PQP? Well, it is because even though I already retained my 1K status the "easy" way, I will still qualify for Premier Platinum the "hard way" when I hit 10K PQP and that milestone comes with 40 PlusPoints! This means that by the end of October 2021, I will have in my account 590 PlusPoints, only 270 of which will expire at the end of Feb 2022. Hopefully, I can used these PlusPoints up before they expire by Skipping the Waitlist to confirm cabin upgrades at booking, another cool feature of PlusPoints...

    Well-planned mileage runs combined with a little bit of luck and a generous FF program can be extremely rewarding!

    1. DCS

      BTW, the 62K bonus redeemable miles I earned from the mileage runs were on top of the regular miles I earned as a 1K flying on tickets that cost more than $1K per trip. I did truly rake in lot of redeemable UA miles...

    2. DCS

      Woah! How many redeemable miles did I earn from the two mileage runs on 2 biz-class tickets that together cost $4,076?

      103,602!!!

      As a 1K, that spend would have earned me just around 40K miles (excluding taxes and other non-fare fees) on 'regular' flying.

      It's like getting 100K miles as a signup bonus for a new CC after spending $4K. Definitely worth it...

  19. maestroben1

    I am as much a fan of status as the next frequent flyer, but does even one person here have any qualms at all about the environmental impact of unnecessary flying?

    1. DCS

      No, because the planes are scheduled to fly and they will fly even without me on board...

    2. DenB

      Agreed. The problem is real and urgent. "One person can make a diffference" is pablum from policymakers who won't act. Significant reductions in emissions from planes will require a pandemic, or dramatic technical innovation and international cooperation by governments willing to infuriate their constituents and party donors, slow their economies.

    3. Steve

      Not one bit. Pollution in china is a thousands times worse than planes flying thats a better thing to target than airplanes. Also just because people drive electric that energy for the most part still comes from something somewhere burning.

    4. Andrew

      I think it comes down to whether we develop an environmentally-viable alternative. Nobody is going to wait for a 2 week Atlantic voyage these days. So we are going to need electric aircraft to make serious improvements.

  20. jm

    I have enough PQP for 1K, but not enough PQFs so I did a segment run today. For about $65 and half a day's time, I flew 3 segments. I had a tasty breakfast at the Star Alliance lounge at LAX before embarking on my flights.

  21. AdrienH

    Hi Ben,
    Another great, well written topic.
    I just did one with KLM on their HEL-AMS-DXB-AMS-HEL that they sell at 795 € in business class. As I am based in NL, I had to add a AMS-HEL-AMS in economy at 159 €.
    Now as KLM-Air France is offering double XP-points till the end of the year, I collected 176 XP (Platinum status=300 XP).
    OK, I spent 10 nights holidays in DXB so maybe not a real "mileage run" ... more optimizing my XP and Skyteam status?

  22. Steven E

    Most airlines are extending status so it’s not really necessary at the moment

  23. TranceXplant

    Ben,

    I generally agree that mile runs are mostly worthwhile around the edges these days. However, there are still viable ways to do it more broadly that bring tangible rewards - particularly on the sort of transpacific itineraries you mentioned. The trick is flying OneWorld partners instead of American in any cabin other than economy - the sweet spot being PE.

    Example: JFK - HKG r/t on Cathay in PE
    Ticket Price: ~$1500

    Ben,

    I generally agree that mile runs are mostly worthwhile around the edges these days. However, there are still viable ways to do it more broadly that bring tangible rewards - particularly on the sort of transpacific itineraries you mentioned. The trick is flying OneWorld partners instead of American in any cabin other than economy - the sweet spot being PE.

    Example: JFK - HKG r/t on Cathay in PE
    Ticket Price: ~$1500
    Miles Flown: 16,144.
    EQM = 1.5 x miles flown = 24,216
    EQD = 20% of miles flown = $3,229
    Award miles = 16,144 - 35,517 (depending on status level)

    Obviously, that's still a lot more expensive than it used to be. But the same 5 trips accomplishes the same thing in fewer flights (all nonstops), with (somewhat) better seats, and for half the real-world money that it would now cost on American.

  24. DH

    I used to love mileage runs. I remember DL had a promotion for their new DTW-LGA dedicated routes I flew 4 turns in a day a few times for like 10x MQM’s. Then I did a Singapore turn ( DTW-SIN-DTW) once too with a 5x promotion. Both days netted nearly Diamond status or was it just platinum then ? But with rollover MQM’s I never looked back and now am Diamond for many years.

    ...

    I used to love mileage runs. I remember DL had a promotion for their new DTW-LGA dedicated routes I flew 4 turns in a day a few times for like 10x MQM’s. Then I did a Singapore turn ( DTW-SIN-DTW) once too with a 5x promotion. Both days netted nearly Diamond status or was it just platinum then ? But with rollover MQM’s I never looked back and now am Diamond for many years.

    It was fun and that’s when the economy was horrible. So it was something fun to do. I forgot about a few DTW-NRT turns on 747’s upper deck. All in all would do it again if the deal was right.

  25. Joshua

    I value my SWA A-list so if I’m at 22 or 23 flights at the end lf the year I’ll make a few quick inexpensive hops to get to 25.

  26. Volleyball

    For myself, I fly from LAX to LAS often and have UA status which still values segments...For the same cost as direct I can add a SFO layover...There are some good PP restaurant options and an AMEX lounge although often you only time for a drink...

  27. Gordon

    I actually do mileage runs to top up my account, but also to try a new airline or aircraft type. This sort of thing is for the real airline geeks, but i enjoyed trying a JAL Q400 or an S7 737-800, or a Fiji Airways ATR (all oneWorld examples I have done), or a Thai A300, a Croatia Q400, or an Egyptair A321 (all on domestic routes) for my Star Alliance top ups.

  28. dander

    Bed runs are still cool. Especially if you travel outside North America where Status means something.

  29. DSK

    It was hard to scrounge around and find that much money that fast, but a $250K 2-year BankDirect CD got me the 250,000 miles I needed to get Platinum for Life a few weeks before AA changed the rules. A 20-minute "conference" at a Marriott (myself and my wife) got me the remaining 10 nights I needed for Titanium for Life before Marriott changed the rules. I used a status match to Hyatt that got...

    It was hard to scrounge around and find that much money that fast, but a $250K 2-year BankDirect CD got me the 250,000 miles I needed to get Platinum for Life a few weeks before AA changed the rules. A 20-minute "conference" at a Marriott (myself and my wife) got me the remaining 10 nights I needed for Titanium for Life before Marriott changed the rules. I used a status match to Hyatt that got me two years as a Diamond and 8 DSUs. We all do what we can to play the "hobby".

  30. C Brown

    Am I the only one that just does not care about elite status? I buy FC and just have fun flying. It really does not matter anymore. OMAAT needs to move on and the absence of any UAL is annoying.

    1. James E

      Why are you even on this site, then? If you take no pleasure in finding deals, strategies and interesting travel topics (for the sake of traveling), then you're just here to troll. Be gone.

    2. Jack

      I would guess that the vast majority of people on this points and miles blog care about elite status and tend to pay for first class on (you guessed it) points and miles, rather than cash.

    3. Steve

      I need to see Endre weigh in here, he is the resident i only pay for 1st class guy haha.

  31. Bill n DC

    I’m doing a Flagship dollar run for AA Platinum DCA MIA LAX MIA DCA and enjoying plane spotting for a day at LAX

    Years ago I did a run with 72 hours airside

  32. Drmarty99

    Doing a fun run with wife (on companion pass) in a couple of weeks: 1-day RT to San Francisco to take advantage of SW promotions extending A-list preferred and companion pass. In to OAK, lunch in SF, and back through SFO to check-out Priority Pass restaurants and Amex Lounge.

  33. Rico

    Here's a good one I remember from when I first started to get serious about miles and points. In 2015, this nut found a mistake business class fare from Sao Paulo to Hong Kong and flew it 3x back to back to get AA Executive Platinum. The status came in handy as he and his wife together began a year of travel vlogging in 2016 and are still going.

    http://natebuchanan.org/the-ultimate-mileage-run-flying-over-92000-miles-in-2-weeks/

  34. DC not in DC

    AS still values miles flown. I run IAH-SEA-FAI in the summers to keep MVP Gold 75K status and enjoy cooler weather.

    7 years ago, UA IAH-SFO-SIN runs kept my 1K status. I love being in SIN.

    During Covid it has been easy to keep both AS and UA staus up.

    1. Eskimo

      People have been commenting a lot about AS. The problem is AS was never a strong program for MR.
      Since joining OW the optics are slightly better but now you actually have to fly AS to earn status.

      Redeeming AS was always good, but earning them at a cheap rate wasn't. You barely earn any miles on cheap partner fares.
      I think @Lucky's example of the $500 to HKG is a good benchmark...

      People have been commenting a lot about AS. The problem is AS was never a strong program for MR.
      Since joining OW the optics are slightly better but now you actually have to fly AS to earn status.

      Redeeming AS was always good, but earning them at a cheap rate wasn't. You barely earn any miles on cheap partner fares.
      I think @Lucky's example of the $500 to HKG is a good benchmark of what a good MR is. I'll bet most AS runs can't even make half of the HKG run.

      And If I we're you 7 years ago I'd be looking for something like IAH-EWR-SFO-NRT-SIN-NRT-DEN-IAD-IAH. or on the IRROPS switch to NRT-IAH-EWR-DEN-IAH.
      Yes it's doable and as a DL flyer, I used to land in ATL 3 times in a single journey ticket.

      I love SIN too, the few places where your quick MR results in you saving time by taking the same plane back and don't need to clear immigrations at all. It used to be where I spend the weekend, LOL.

  35. D3kingg

    I’d rather spend a few grand on a first class ticket to Europe on BA and credit it to American than a ton of domestic segments. But to each his own.
    I also like mattress runs. You can game the hotel loyalty programs with 1 night stays and using the right credit cards. We’re always one step ahead of the airlines and hotels. The average traveler is clueless as he or she scrolls down air bnb and Expedia looking for deals.

    1. khatl

      Always used to do mattress runs on SPG given Plat was so easy to earn based on stays! Those good ol' days!

  36. Adambrau

    I remember when "LuckyCoins" flew something like an all in week of back-to-back transpacific odyssey on United.

    1. Eskimo

      I think you forgot some numbers, it was 9876 or 8765 like that.

      Fun times, when you're young and have bump vouchers ;)

  37. Eskimo

    Anyone here did crazy runs when hyperinflation hit a certain currency.
    Reposition few thousand miles or go to more places for the sake of YQ.
    Got questioning by immigration, border agent, or DEA equivalent.
    Repeating the same weird routing more than once, or even back to back few consecutive times.

    Still miss the community and fun from the early internet days, when pudding put us on the map.
    To the OGs out there.

    1. BBK

      Spot on, Venezuelan here..
      Those were THE mileage runs. We didn't had almost any of the great perks Americans do (credit cards, connectivity, etc.) but in the peak times of the currency exchange control (and all the damage it did to us, and our country) the bright side was the airfares!.

      Long story short, for context just one of the many MANY runs I did.. I booked CCS-IAH-FRA-DXB (CCS-IAH-FRA on UA J ,...

      Spot on, Venezuelan here..
      Those were THE mileage runs. We didn't had almost any of the great perks Americans do (credit cards, connectivity, etc.) but in the peak times of the currency exchange control (and all the damage it did to us, and our country) the bright side was the airfares!.

      Long story short, for context just one of the many MANY runs I did.. I booked CCS-IAH-FRA-DXB (CCS-IAH-FRA on UA J , FRA-DXB in LH in F.. in the 747 that had the F upstairs with the seat/bed combo), the ticket cost was around 10K $, true out of pocket expense in local currency about $300!! So it's not that it was lucrative, if you gave ANY value to the miles and status earned you were basically being paid to flight!

      Sadly I wasn't part of the community in that era (I was just getting started), I didn't even knew FT forum.. it would've been GREAT to share those tips and arrange some meet-ups to initiate the runs from CCS.

      For 2 years in a row I spent even the 24th and 31st of December flying!.. I remember clearly that one December I arrived to CCS (from MAD-FRA-IAH-CCS) on Dec 22nd, then to my hometown on 23rd, just to 'refresh' and leave on 24th from my hometown to CCS-IAH-ORD-HKG-SIN or something like that.
      Got to 1K for 3 consecutive years, and exec plat 1 year..

      Wow, those were the days, and I still have some UA miles remaining from those days!.

  38. Donna

    I did a different type of mileage run back in 2019, after making EXP with AA, I booked my next TATL trip on DL to go over the 1 million lifetime miles flown threshold with them. I switched carriers away from DL several years ago just a little over 5000 miles short and always intended to go back but it took me a long time to actually do it.

  39. Marco Cruz

    Hey Ben, I can give you a recent example of a mileage run I did last week Saturday. My goal this year is to re-qualify for Platinum Pro, which in my opinion is the sweet spot as it gives me free upgrades, free checked bags and priority boarding. I paid $161 for a round-trip ticket from MIA to LAX. I left Miami at 8:30 am, and flew back home on a 12:45 pm flight. I...

    Hey Ben, I can give you a recent example of a mileage run I did last week Saturday. My goal this year is to re-qualify for Platinum Pro, which in my opinion is the sweet spot as it gives me free upgrades, free checked bags and priority boarding. I paid $161 for a round-trip ticket from MIA to LAX. I left Miami at 8:30 am, and flew back home on a 12:45 pm flight. I was upgraded on my outbound flight and paid $242 for an instant upgrade for my return. The good news is that I received 2,342 EQM's on the way there and double that for the paid J fare on my return. The bad news is that the $242 paid to upgrade doesn't go towards EQD's. At this point I'm only 1K away from my lowered EQD requirement for this year and 5K miles away from my lower EQM requirement for this year. And just like you, I've done many a mileage run for a long weekend to HKG back when the world was open for business. Good luck to all in your travels.

  40. Nigel

    Pre COVID we would do an exEu and a series of BA and AA flights in November every year. My wife went from 0 to Gold in a week every time and hit Gold for Life pretty quickly. Not sure the economics still stack up. One week we did 20 flights in
    7 days of flying for less than £2k including BA F TATL

  41. Thomas

    Looking at the comments, I have to concur with the repeated mentions of Alaska Airlines. I'll likely be MR'ing for at least one trip to hit AS 75k this year. I'm assuming the 50k bonus is still there.

    I have Mileage Runned in the past to hit Plat on AA, and then EXP a year later, but I was pretty close to being over in both cases.

    1. Bobo

      The good news about Alaska extends beyond the mileage program. Comments on Ben's recent post about airline food in first showed Alaska to be the clear winner there too. Other than being stuck on the tarmac in Seattle for an hour a week ago do to a computer glitch, Alaska has been great to me this year with on time flights, caring and professional inflight service, and almost 100% upgrades as a Gold 75K.

  42. David

    "Nowadays I’d say mileage runs are really only worthwhile at the margins" Agreed especially given the devaluation of miles and, most status now requires some level of spend. Cheap tickets no longer cut it.

  43. Aaron

    I'm getting close to 2 million miles on AA so earlier this year I was flying MIA-LAX-MIA on the 777 in PE for $55 return. This comes out to about 1.2 cents/mile. I made PP as a result of my travels by meeting the spending requirement putting my Estimated Taxes on the MileUp card. I got upgraded several times to Business as well. Now, I'll just fly out to 2 million by 1.31.23 when my PP expires, so no more mileage runs for me...

  44. Fredd

    We're actually flying two segment runs on AS between now and the end of the year to qualify for the new 100K status. That's a new one for us although, like Ben, we flew many MRs back in the day on UA to qualify for !K and for, cough, Million Mile Flyer status.

    AS is actually still fun to fly and whether or not we get much of a tangible benefit from the flights we're looking forward to them.

    1. Mark

      Just a note the new 100K status doesn't start next year, you'll still just be 75K next year. You'll have to start the 100K run next year.

    2. Erica T

      Alaska sent out an email last week saying those that hit 100k this year will have the status when it launches next year.

  45. [email protected]

    Another variation is to fly less-direct routings and/or more segments on trips you'd be taking anyway. This is less relevant when qualifying dollars are the driver of elite status however in the case of United, distance still matters for million miler status and for Star Alliance flights not ticketed by UA, and the number of segments can reduce the dollars requirement.

    1. YULtide

      Back in the day AC gave a minimum 500 miles per segment, so this was an easy way to pad the mileage account. Why fly YEG-YYZ when you could fly YEG-YYC-YYZ for an easy 500 extra miles?

      I've flown that, or YYZ-YOW-YEG more times than I can count.

      Now the minimum is 250 miles, so it's less lucrative, but still can be worthwhile to help get over the top for status.

  46. Mark P

    Doing a mileage run this fall on Alaska! Cheap fares on fall travel + 1.5x EQM multiplier + BOGO deal last weekend means my wife and I are both going to get Gold 75K this year when we were just thinking we would hit Gold.

    1. AB

      Doing 5 SFO-JFK (one fight is to EWR) MR on AS by year end. Also taking advantage of the 1.5x EQM + BOGO promo. Starting from scratch to get to MVP Gold. Wish I could make it to MVP Gold 75k, but that would probably pushing it. Each Saver RT was less than $150.

  47. khatl

    Used to do some of them on AA TPA-LAX via MIA. Tickets in first used to run at around $400 (coach was $300). But the bonus was that I could credit to my BA EC Card, which as the MIA-LAX leg is over 2,000 miles got me 480 tier points for each roundtrip.

    As BA's Gold status was 1,500 tier points, it was $1,200 for 3 roundtrips and got me 1,440 tier points. Couple...

    Used to do some of them on AA TPA-LAX via MIA. Tickets in first used to run at around $400 (coach was $300). But the bonus was that I could credit to my BA EC Card, which as the MIA-LAX leg is over 2,000 miles got me 480 tier points for each roundtrip.

    As BA's Gold status was 1,500 tier points, it was $1,200 for 3 roundtrips and got me 1,440 tier points. Couple of other flights a year got me over 1,500. I was within a few thousand of BA Lifetime Gold anyway, and this accelerated me getting there and now have access to AA flagship lounges forever (in so far as anything is forever in this game). Still possible now to earn the same BA tier points, but the cost of first tickets is significantly higher!

  48. Andrew

    Last did a mileage run in 2016 to get executive platinum status on American. I think that was the last year it was solely miles based. Went to HKG and back over a weekend and just stayed in the airport for a few hours.

    1. Steve

      Did the same thing back in 16 as well.

  49. InceptionCat

    LOL i just booked a mileage run trip to earn Lufthansa Senator status. It'll be the first elite status run i've ever done.
    It's to a destination i had been planning to visit at the end of October but brought it forward due a current promo Lufthansa is running. Looking forward to it.

  50. kay_elemeno

    Ben, you have been ON FIRE lately with the amount of articles about fun topics. Keep it up!!

    1. Trevor

      it's just filler content....

  51. postnobills

    The last mileage run flight I took was on 9/11/01 from DC to LAX. Luckily I was on UA rather than the ill-fated AA77. Nevertheless it turned me off from mileage run flights and from then on I concentrated on gathering miles and status via the credit card signup game supplemented with "real" business flying.

  52. John

    The spend requirement is largely limited to US programs. Choose an international program instead and....

    There's also the error fare thing. I try to book 2-3 of these each year. They can help quite a bit..

    Or use status-matching opportunities.

    I'd say elite status (mid-tier or better) is still easy and cheap to come by.

    I agree that revenue-based computation of the redeemable miles earned has killed the traditional MR for premium cabin awards, though.

    1. Eskimo

      On the contrary for the old players, it's actually the US programs not international programs, that were among the last to have spend requirements.

      Most programs then and now never awarded 100% miles for the cheaper fares. The only way was to pull off some crazy cheap 100 segment hops in Asia to get top tier elite status.

      I wouldn't go as far as to say mid tier is easy and cheap. In @Lucky's example of JFK-HKG. x5 doesn't even get you enough EQD for an entry tier.

    2. John

      The biggest international programs still lack spend requirements. Just look at the programs of SQ (KrisFlyer), BA (Executive Club), QR (Privilege Club/QMiles), or LH (Miles & More).

      Most such as Executive Club do rely on spend for redeemable miles ("avios") but not for elite-qualifying miles ("tier points").

    3. Eskimo

      You still don't get it?
      It's not there is a spend requirements but you earn 0-25% on cheap fares, which is the whole reason for mileage runs.

  53. Willem

    Mileage Runs are thankfully still well and alive on Alaska Airlines! I flew JFK - SFO roundtrip on 3 consecutive days on "COVID-era" fares to hit 75k elite (and now, put myself in striking distance for 100k elite!)

  54. Greg

    Back when I did 3 SFO-SIN r/t during the triple miles promo days represented the glory days of the frequent flyer game. I did enough of it back then, on top of my organic travel, that now I'm a 1.6MM lifetime gold on UA, which means that, for the moment, I don't care that I've only flown once this year and won't requalify for 1K unless they extend. Plus my wife has my status, which causes her to tolerate my travel slightly more.

  55. Peter

    Fun read. In the past, well worth it. Nowadays, only worth it if you are very close to the next tier towards the end of the year.

  56. DenB

    Mileage runs were great stories, to freak out civilians. My fave was PSP-DFW-BOS-DFW-PSP nested inside YYZ-DFW-PSP-DFW-YYZ, during those heady days of Double Elite Qualifying Miles during AA's restructuring. Slept on the white rocking chairs in a bridge between terminals in BOS, waiting for the Admirals Club to open in the morn. ^5,000 actual flying miles got me Executive Platinum that year. But the pointless flying? Those WEREN'T the days...

    1. DenB

      oops, can't edit. the number is 65,000

Featured Comments Load all 87 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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DCS

No, because the planes are scheduled to fly and they will fly even without me on board...

kay_elemeno

Ben, you have been ON FIRE lately with the amount of articles about fun topics. Keep it up!!

DCS

I just completed a couple of mileage runs that both allowed me to retain my UA Premier 1K status and earn 62,000 redeemable miles. The UA 1K status retention was the result of UA's <i>"Fly to the Finish"</i> promo that allows existing elites to retain their status by meeting certain PQP/PQF requirements. To retain my 1K status I simply needed to do a mileage run that earned me 3K PQP by end of November. To earn the 62,000, I needed to complete 2 trips costing at least $1,000 each by the end of September, as part of a <b>targeted</b> UA offer called <i>"Mile Play"</i>. The combined "grand prize" of 1K retention and 62K redeemable miles was definitely worth a couple of mileage runs, so I flew JFK to SFO and back, and then JFK to HNL through LAX and back. In the process I got to experience UA's relaunched T-con service from JFK to SFO and to LAX in business class on B767-300 metal. The two mileage runs cost enough to earn me the combined "grand prize." After arriving in HNL I met the requirement for earning the 62K bonus miles, which were promptly deposited. I returned from HNL last Tuesday, and some time by last weekend I was shocked when I noticed that I had <b>550 PlusPoints</b>, UA's new highly flexible cabin upgrade instrument, in my account! What happened is that after I met the requirement to retain my 1K status following my mileage run to HNL, UA simply awarded me the new status immediately (September 2021 to February 2023!), rather than waiting until the current status year ends in Feb 2022. The new 1K status came with 280 new PlusPoints which, combined with 270 PlusPoints that I already had in my account and will expire in Feb 2022, resulted the of 550 PlusPoints that shocked me. But that is not all! These are mileage runs that keep on giving! Just for the heck of it, I clicked the link for UA's helpful "status tracker" to confirm that I had, indeed, been awarded my 2022-2023 1K status in September 2021. Sure enough, the display had changed from letting me know how far I still had to go to retain 1K to this: <blockquote> Keep flying to earn more PlusPoints Keep earning PlusPoints as you fly with United and our Partner Airlines. Your next milestone includes + <b>40 PlusPoints</b> <b>9,032</b> PQP of 10,000 </blockquote> That is right: I am just 968 PQP shy of earning another 40 PlusPoints, which I will easily do with a trip to FCO coming up in less than 2 weeks! Why will I earn 40K PlusPoint when I hit 10K PQP? Well, it is because even though I already retained my 1K status the "easy" way, I will still qualify for Premier Platinum the "hard way" when I hit 10K PQP and that milestone comes with 40 PlusPoints! This means that by the end of October 2021, I will have in my account <b>590 PlusPoints</b>, only 270 of which will expire at the end of Feb 2022. Hopefully, I can used these PlusPoints up before they expire by <b>Skipping the Waitlist</b> to confirm cabin upgrades at booking, another cool feature of PlusPoints... Well-planned mileage runs combined with a little bit of luck and a <i>generous</i> FF program can be extremely rewarding!

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