How Much Information Do You Volunteer On A Mistake Fare/Mileage Run?

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, Travel

I’ve been involved in this hobby for a bit over a decade now, and there’s no denying that my approach to things is different now than when I was 15.

When I was mileage running as a teenager I’d quite proudly proclaim I was on a mileage run to anyone that would listen. Because I thought it was sort of cool (after all who needs sex, drugs, and alcohol when you have mileage runs?!).

Over the years I’ve mellowed out quite a bit, and generally don’t proactively offer up details of my travels to airline employees. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always be honest at immigration (most immigration officers nowadays are familiar with mileage runs, and don’t bat an eyelash when you give that as the reason for your quick international trip). But aside from that I don’t usually proactively offer up too much information. For example, if a flight attendant asks me how long I’m going to Beijing for:

“How long are you going to Beijing for?”
“Just for two days. I guess I’ll be flying with you on the way back as well?”
“Only two days?! Why so short?”
“Eh, just a quick trip, you know how this stuff goes.”

Overall I don’t mileage run much anymore, though I have been to Beijing and back three times this month.

One of the things I’ve found most fascinating is that everyone seems to know about this Beijing mistake fare. Like at this point I’m pretty sure the airport janitor’s step-sister’s third cousin is familiar with it.

I was in the Centurion Lounge Dallas yesterday before my flight to Beijing, and got a massage in the spa:

“Where are you headed?”
“Oh, are you on one of those $400 business class fares?”

While I’m getting a massage the nail technician is talking to the guy she’s giving a manicure to:

“Yeah, lately the Centurion Lounge is really full before the Beijing flight.”
“Oh, really?”
“Yes, do you know about the $400 business class tickets American had?”
“Yeah, American had $400 business class tickets from Washington to Beijing. I hear about it every day.”


The Admirals Club agents in Washington know. The flight attendants working domestic flights know. The flight attendants working the Beijing flights know. Heck, some captains even know.

I’ve witnessed tons of people proactively tell the crews about how they were traveling to/from Beijing on cheap fares.

Anyway, my point with this post isn’t to suggest that you should or shouldn’t tell everyone within earshot about the $450 mistake fare. But rather as I reflect on it, I find it interesting the different approaches people take towards sharing this information, and I couldn’t help but reflect on my own “journey,” and how I’m not as forthcoming to strangers about my travels plans as I used to be.

I guess it comes down to the fact that I’m reasonably introverted, and I’m not looking to start a conversation with a stranger just for giggles.

I’m curious what approach you guys take when on mistake fares and/or mileage runs — do you tell anyone that will listen about them, only offer up information when specifically asked, pretend you’ve never heard of them, or somewhere inbetween?

  1. It seems like American is generating a lot of goodwill by honoring these mistakes. You have to wonder how much revenue they really lost out on.

  2. “Overall I don’t mileage run much anymore, though I have been to Beijing and back three times this month.”


  3. If you are getting a good deal….you don’t tell anybody that you don’t know closely and know that they aren’t going to bugger it up.
    The minute you blab about something like this, it’s done. You find out that you are talking to the president of the airlines wife or something.
    Loose lips sink ships.
    So did you get 3 fares for $20!!!!!! hahahahaha or $400!
    You can tell me. I’m cool.
    THAT is crazy if you got the ones for $20.

  4. If you are on planes all the time, I wonder how much radiation you get exposed to? Like, you get a lot of radiation exposure on planes. I wonder how pilots fare healthwise.

  5. I think another thing that informs your experiences is that you are somewhat prominent and multiple people have “messed” with your travels as you were conducting them.

  6. @Johnny Mac It’s well documented that flight crews have a (slightly) higher risk of cancer. I don’t know if I should put outside links here but there’s a lengthy article about it on webmd called, not too imaginatively, “Flight Crews Have Higher Cancer Risk.” You can look it up but why bother? Someone’s going to tell you that anything you do that’s any fun causes cancer — even staying up past your bedtime.

  7. The lady at the Flagship Lounge in LAX is totally familiar with Mileage Runs – she even calls them Tier Point runs when she sees a quick return and a BA Gold Card these days.

  8. I think it’s crass for anyone in a service role, who is actively serving a guest (be it a lounge employee, or a flight attendant, etc) to ask questions such as why you’re only in Beijing for two days, or whether you’re one of the $400 fares, or otherwise make a comment on something personal about a customer. If the customer brings it up, then fine, but don’t probe otherwise, it’s rude and unprofessional.

  9. I had an FA on ORD-PEK say (sort of conspiratorially), “That guy back there got his ticket for TWENTY DOLLARS! Can you believe that? We don’t even get tickets that cheap!” I was also flying on the mistake fare, but I thought it was weird that she pointed it out. I would have felt pretty bad if I’d paid several thousand.

  10. This post is just dumb… Call it what it is, you fly on mistake fares, don’t try to be something your not, your traveling for leasure.. If you miss connect, no big deal. If i miss connect I miss my meeting… Yes I am a bit jealous that you fly on cheap tickets, but I don’t enjoy the f/j “experience” as I am sleeping or preparing for the meeting that pays the bills. Often I am on the same schedule as the crew, except I work while they are in the city

  11. @LindaK: Uh, why? They are spending a ton of time with the customer who is traveling and how else are they going to make conversation? If the customer doesn’t want to talk about it, just say what Lucky said in the first convo “Eh, just a quick trip, you know how this stuff goes.” and that should be the end of it.

  12. I’m happy to hear that immigration officers are getting used to mileage runs. I’ve always stayed away from international mileage runs (especially ones that don’t involve staying one night at the destination, such as the IAD-KWI-BAH run) because I’m worried about looking suspicious to immigration officers. “Oh yeah I’m just here for one hour before going back to America.” I might be more willing to do an international run now.

  13. It also goes to show the power of flyertalk and the blogs. I recall I was already asleep when that mistake fare got viral and by the time I woke up the next morning, it was over…. so that mistake fare was available for less than 10 hours yet several people were able to take advantage of it!

  14. I never tell anyone what a deal I got on a flight act like you belong and you well be treated the right way.

  15. yeesh. I never tell anyone I’m on a MR, it invites too many questions. The AA folks are well aware that their airline is full of MR-types though. Was on DFW-YUL flight (cleared to F) and the FA asked, “you’re coming from HKG, right?” 😛

  16. “Overall I don’t mileage run much anymore, though I have been to Beijing and back three times this month.”

    Here’s yet another disingenuous bull you wrote, which is why your blog have become so dis tasteful and as another commenter stated above, douchey in recent years. And you wondered why there are people who criticize? Way to go.

  17. @Ben, They can make innocuous conversation, along the line of, “How was your trip?” or “Where are you flying today?” If a client wants to go into more detail, it is up to them to do so. Good service is not to have the client feel like they have to explain something they don’t want to get into, or feel they have to defend something.

  18. Aren’t all your flights mileage runs?

    Buying a cheap fare from Cairo or Colombo is also a mileage run.

    I’d say you do 75% mileage runs, right?

  19. For me keeping my mouth shut has nothing to do with age or introversion. Rather it is due to modern airlines having moved toward a distinctly adversarial relationship with their own customers. Anytime I receive something extra it seems to make the staff antsy to rebalance the situation by taking something else away by double checking everything else to make sure there are no additional fees or restrictions they can leverage against me. As a result I avoid talking to airline staff as much as possible. That way I prevent drawing any attention to myself and risking the wrath of a bored employee with nothing better to do than worsen my experience. Better safe than sorry.

  20. @ james — Nowhere close to that. I don’t write about a vast majority of my travels. As far as the Cairo or Colombo flights go, many of them were to review inaugural flights, so weren’t mileage runs.

  21. @ Ken Y. — I don’t think you’ve ever left a nice comment, but you sure seem to think you know a lot about me for someone I’ve never met?

  22. Don’t know you. Like james above, just taking a few seconds to call a spade a spade. If you were genuine and less douchey, you might even get more clicks to credit card baits and traffic income. Just feel you’ve become really disingenuous over the years but that’s not different than a lot of people. :). “Cheers!”

  23. People here don’t know you; they only judge you based on how you present yourself with your writing, you sense of entitlement, your lack of morals, and your penchant for sensationally tooting your own horn and feeding your ego.

  24. @james, I’d say 90% his rev flights are mileage runs but that’s no different than anyone (myself included once upon a time) with little or no business travel.

  25. It seems to me there is a difference with some people on mileage runs vs mistake fares.

    Mileage runs that aren’t on clear mistake fares (like less than $500 to fly Business return to China) have no cringe factor – people might think “why not make a real holiday out of it?” but no-one is going to get their nose out of joint about it. It’s not typical, but hey it’s your time and money (and you paid a normal fare).

    Whereas talking/bragging about your “crazy” mistake fare and how cheap it was for you is likely to annoy people who paid much more than you did for the non-mistake fare (and who may feel they are subsiding your mistake fare), and make people perhaps question if the premium cabin now has people in it that you normally wouldn’t encounter. That snobbery can cut both ways, in that some of those mistake fare travellers might intentionally keep very quite here because they do want others assuming that they couldn’t afford to buy normal premium tickets (even if they can’t) on such routes.

    Ultimately, meh – do whatever you feel is right (although I do think mistake fares – because of the scarcity involved – aren’t the wisest thing to repeatedly mention at the airport).

    @Lucky I do wonder now, what with the slew of discounted premium fares that followed the China mistake fare (even though they are not as anywhere as crazy as that $500 fare), would you have not done as many in hindsight? There were/are very decent deals to places with likely more interest to you (and on better product), to earn your AA requal – opportunity cost means you were perhaps limited in taking up these opportunities due to going hard on the China mistake. I’m sure you take it all in stride, but it’s interesting if later events influenced your retrospective thoughts.

  26. Don’t want others assuming I meant (damn autocorrect).

    It’s been a surprisingly good period for some cheap fares of late (particularly for US and Europe – but everyone got some love with the Etihad discount).

  27. This post is especially relevant as I am sitting in the Asiana Business Lounge in ICN on a 2 hour layover on a USA-ICN-USA MR!

  28. @Ken Y: why do you read his blog AND comment all the time if you hate him or his writing so much???

  29. I can never take any action because I usually arrive to late. Oh and my parents wouldn’t be so keen on me flying to Beijing by myself 🙁 Well at least I can feel like I’m there with your trip reports.

  30. Ben. Keeping doing you. This blog is suppose to be about tips, tactics and experiences. I have learned so much from reading your blog that my husband and I have traveled the world very cheap. If people don’t want to read it.. They don’t have to. Freedom of Speech.. But get off the blog. No one needs to be talked down to on their own blog which is FREE.
    Just sad when grown men feel the need to degrade other people’s thoughts.

  31. Hi Lucky,

    I have a question that is somewhat related. When land based restaurants offer deep discounts for meals like Boston Pizza’s cheapo Tuesday when all pasta meals are 1/2 price, you still get a full portion meal.

    That said, when you are on a super discount ticket, is there any reduction in service or meal quality because the price is so low??

    I’m also one not to blurt out my fare to a seat mate as often I’m travelling on either a deep discount or non revenue ticket where my friend might be full blown FC.

    Keep racking up those miles . . or even better give some to me (:

  32. @ Rick — Nope, the crews don’t know what you’re on a mistake fare, so service is the same (well, unless you tell them). 🙂

  33. @ Ken Y. — And you’re free not to read… so why do you keep reading?

    I certainly appreciate the continued revenue I get from your obsessive checking of the blog and negative commentary, regardless!

  34. Don’t thank me. I never click on any credit card baits. My low quality traffic from China gets you pennies, if anything at all in revenue.

    It has become rarer and rarer for any informative to come out of this blog.

  35. over the years I’ve learned that “the less said the better” is the way to go with regard to fares such as those discussed in this post. This is doubly true for public Internet forums as it seems that airlines troll these for information to use against us. I don’t want to give them ammo.

  36. I’ve never been on a mileage-run per se. I found a dirt cheap roundtrip fare from IAD-SJU many years back and made an unplanned vacation out of it. Never told anyone about how cheap the fare was except for family. Now, on to something more important…

    For those of you who expect the same posts from Lucky as 5+ years ago, c’mon now. He has obviously (kinda) matured from an undergrad (fine, high school student) doing mileage and mattress runs, while finding insane ways on going about booking award tickets in international first class, all while blogging from Tampa at his parents house.

    As individuals, we all hopefully mature and evolve as we reflect on our past-experiences. During these reflections we re-prioritize and re-evaluate the important things in our lives from family, friends, careers, living situations, life-partners, dogs, and our favorite Real Housewives shows.

    Lucky has made a career choice as an aviation analyst (whether he’s ever called himself this or not, I don’t know,) who has achieved success at turning his passion of all-things flying into a career. He’s not just doing MR’s, booking around the world trips for “free” for his family (and hopefully close-friends), and sipping on non-alcoholic drinks in 1A anymore.

    Instead, he’s contributing to syndicated travel columns, being interviewed on nationwide media outlets, continuing to contribute to his blog (did you not notice Nick, Tiffany, and that “other guy” have joined the blog? This is because Lucky wants us to continue to have great posts to read while he’s occupied with other matters, not because he’s become a douche and presumably sipping on Krug in the Maldives and ignoring us). He obviously knows what he’s doing, transforming his blog into a profit-generating business and launching a career out of it.

    Hell. We might even see him on next season’s Shark Tank where he’s pitching a Lucky-branded luggage and travel accesory line and Lori Greiner makes him an exclusive deal to carry the line on QVC. (For the record, I think he would give Samantha Brown from the travel channel a good run for her money)

    To bring my ramble to an end, people change as a result of life. If you’ve become disinterested in this blog or any of its post, go read Chris Elliot’s instead. 😉 Bye, Felicia.

    Not as lucky,


  37. I enjoy reading the post here and many others. My family and I are in Beijing now and would not mention to others the price of my travels. As I work all the time at HP I was very happy to take some time off with the family for this trip. I fly a lot for work and since my flights are paid by the company I would not really know what they paid. We have rented out 777 before for flight for large group employees so trust me the ticket price is not what is being paid. At least for HP. Hearing about someone getting a great price on an air ticket would not interest me as much as what did they did on the trip. Please consider milage runs with taking a day or two to enjoy. I would love to find a great deal from IAH to Las Vegas. Taking off a Friday to go to HKG from IAH I enjoy a complete day and a half and see something different every time.

    Thanks Jason F

  38. Good on you, Ben, for generously helping lowlifes like me leverage the points/miles game. Someday I’ll share an epic travel story that you are primarily responsible for…but I gotta wait for the statute of limitations to expire.

    In the mean time, I looked up “douchebag” in my Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia and found this:

    Now THAT’S a douchebag.

  39. @Ken Y. – “People here don’t know you; they only judge you based on how you present yourself”

    Just like how people here can only judge YOU based on how YOU present yourself with your arrogance and looking down your nose at Lucky.

  40. (From still another Tom)

    Lucky’s post is straightforward enough but some of the comments are a little puzzling.

    For example, why would anyone who very evidently has no clue what “disingenuous” means call someone disingenuous? Why would someone who’s even more evidently practically illiterate even raise the topic of “how you present yourself with your writing”? Why would someone who obviously hates this blog keep reading it?

    Anyway, to cut right to the chase, why do I keep reading the comments? Why, for stuff like this, of course: “Someday I’ll share an epic travel story that you are primarily responsible for…but I gotta wait for the statute of limitations to expire.” Now THAT wins my coveted Best Post of the Day prize. Well played, MildHigh!

  41. @tom: in all seriousness (or as much seriousness as we can muster in a comments section for a blog devoted to gaming the mile/point industry)- the story is epic, it really is (mostly) because of ben, and I really do have to wait to tell it.

    hats off to ben- thanks for helping all of us get more out of travel opportunities. “waiter: krug, all around!”

  42. Lucky, you should use the word “epic” more often; perhaps in each and every article you write.
    It makes you appear more worldly.

  43. Lucky….. I would not want to speak to others about my MRs if I had them. I do look out for the few bloggers I could recognize when I fly and have never seen you or others. I see A LOT of people in the terminals and realize there are people in there for all sorts of reasons. Nothing wrong with being an aviation analyst! I don’t think it would be glamorous for more than 3 days to do what you do because flying is unpleasant to me, but I love travel. I enjoy the blog in general.

  44. Don’t see any problem with discussing a mileage run that isn’t a huge mistake fare. Was seated once on a segment run next to a non-reving FA and she was surprised to hear that at noon it was already the 4th flight I was taking that day. Made for good small talk and I learned a lot from her about crew scheduling.

  45. I’ve noticed most passengers in J or F prefer privacy and tend to keep to themselves. If someone asks where I’m off to, I’ll gladly tell them. Though if someone asks me how much I paid for the ticket, I normally decline to state it (in all fairness, I don’t tell strangers my annual salary either!)
    As for me, I’ve yet to go on a mileage run or take advantage of a mistake fare; though I am still waiting for an AF La Prem mistake fare! 😉

  46. We were having breakfast at our hotel in Beijing and struck up a conversation with a couple at the next table, one of whom said “there was a gal in here yesterday who flew all the way from Washington DC in business class for just $400.” We then confessed that we were traveling on the same fare.

  47. @lucky – we were asked by the same DFW Spa employee, I’ll bet. We played dumb and just said “oh”.

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