Some mileage run advice

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion now, “If I’m way behind in requalifying for [insert desired status], am I best off mileage running on segments, miles domestically, or just a few longhaul flights?” That’s a great question, so let me do my best to provide a few points to consider.

Let’s theoretically say we’re talking about United and you’re going for 1K status, which requires 100,000 EQM’s. The first thing to look at is where you stand currently, which will ultimately determine whether it makes more sense to qualify on segments or miles. Doing the math it takes 100,000 EQM’s or 100 segments for 1K, so basically we can value one segment at 1,000 EQM’s. So if you have 40,000 EQM’s and six segments right now, it seems obvious enough to qualify on miles, and at the same time if you have 20,000 EQM’s and 40 segments, go for segments.

If your miles/segment ratio is somewhere around 1,000 I would say go for miles, NOT segments. The reason I’m a big fan of qualifying on miles is that all of the benefits that come with status come because of miles and not segments. You earn miles (and the 100% bonus for that matter) based on miles flown. You earn 500 mile upgrades based on miles flown. While it might be slightly easier to earn 1K on segments, you’d only be earning 50,000 EQM’s assuming all of your flights were the minimum segment length, while you’d be earning 100,000+ EQM’s going on miles. Ultimately I think we all want more than just status, but more importantly miles to use for award travel.

Now that I’m clearly biased towards miles, the question is whether the famed “Singapore Run” is better than just hopping around the country. Well, while we all love SIN runs since they can be comfortable for those of us that can upgrade, they usually don’t make sense. It all comes down to how desperate you are for status. On a SIN run you can earn upwards of 20,000 EQM’s over a weekend, which means you could earn 1K in five weekends. Still, it will cost you dearly. Most good SIN fares have a six day minimum stay, and if you stay shorter than that it’ll usually cost you $1,500+, although it’s usually not much cheaper nowadays even when staying more than six days.

So you ultimately have to determine how much you value your time and how desperate you are. If it’s November and you’re sitting at 10,000 EQM’s and have the money to blow, a SIN run might make sense. Under normal conditions, though, domestic mileage runs are the way to go. As painful as redeyes are, they’re the most logical when it comes to mileage runs. So far I’m spending at least five nights next month on a plane without a flat bed, and as much as I’m dreading it I know they’ll pay off nicely.


  1. For those that really care more about the status of 1K versus the miles accrued, segments works out fine, even on the shabby USA. A few bucks more and get 4 segments (yes, no e-500s) but adds up very quickly. I have only flown USA 4 times this year and the other 46 segments on UA.

  2. SFO-IAD-FRA/MUC-ORD-IAD-SFO can be had fairly cheap and gets you 13,000 miles. It can be done on a weekend.

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