What makes mileage running worth it….

The one benefit of mileage running/accruing points endlessly that really makes it all worth it isn’t so much the ability for me to travel in international first class frequently, but more importantly being able to get my family first class tickets to anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar.

Take my mom as an example. I remember we did our first “premium” award four years ago on our way to Germany to visit relatives. Upon arrival I asked her how she enjoyed the flight, and she responded “it was nice, but I really don’t care whether I fly first or coach.” While I would never pay for first class out of pocket, at the price I get it (basically coach prices) I think it’s a bargain, so my goal ever since has been to “convert” her and make her truly love travel.

Suffice it to say that her opinion has changed a bit since then. While she’s not a frequent by many of our standards, she does about two trips a year to Europe (often to visit relatives) along with a few domestic trips, so travels maybe 25,000 miles/year. I’m happy to say that all of the international travel for the past few years has been in international first, all thanks to mileage awards. While we could never afford to pay for premium tickets, mileage runs really make it an incredible deal.

Anyway, she was flying back from JFK today on Delta in coach and called me from the Crown Room Club (she has an American Express Platinum card, which gets her access to the lounge), saying how much more stressful travel is when not flying in premium cabins. She said she waited for over an hour in line just to check in her bag, and security also took forever. While she didn’t mind this, it really made her appreciate premium travel.

It’s also important to understand that my mom loves to travel but doesn’t really like flying, understandably so since it’s a miserable experience for most nowadays. Earlier this summer she also did a Lufthansa first class award to Europe, and upon arrival back home she said the flight could have been ten hours longer based on how much she enjoyed it.

Lastly, and this made me laugh, we were talking about her award ticket to Egypt the other day. I said I’d need another week or so to get the miles for a first class award, and she said “business would be fine too.” I responded “OK, so can I save a few extra miles and fly you in coach as well?” She didn’t respond and we both laughed, since she realized just how spoiled she has been travel-wise, and especially realized how much her perspective has changed.

While I enjoy doing mileage runs, they’re by no means glamorous. Getting up at 4AM only to catch a redeye the same night at 11PM on the other coast (2AM where I started), and then sleeping for a couple of hours in an uncomfortable domestic seat on a near weekly basis can be tiring. Still, being able to get premium awards for family members makes it all worth it.

Just a warning….. if you give someone a premium award, they’ll never want to go back!

Filed Under: Awards, Mileage Runs
  1. The choices we make I guess, I guess for me, time with my family and friends is more important then sitting on a plane or upgrade tickets anywhere. Life passes by, and I would rather have a life full of memories, and sitting anymore time on a plane then I have to, nothing glamorous there.

    Sweet note about your parents, still a bit insane if you ask me. 🙂

  2. Douglas, I agree with you, and I’m not for a second suggesting that everyone should mileage run. Besides, you already fly so much!

    That being said, what I do (mileage running, traveling) is a lot more than sitting on a plane to upgrade tickets. I’ve made life long friends through flying, both directly (by meeting them on a plane) and indirectly (through my blog, FlyerTalk, etc.). It has become a part of my life to the point that earning a miles is only one of the many rewards I get out of this “game.”

  3. I certainly appeciate the benefit of premium class travel, but I wouldn’t fly extra trips to pay for the difference between business and first class.

  4. Lucky, I enjoy reading your blog daily and I have a question for you. Next week, I will be taking a mileage run and I am leaving at about 6 in the morning and coming home at about 7 at night. I am hoping to get bumped on at least one of these flights and I was wondering if I could be a volunteer for this even though my flight home leaves that night. What would happen if I took a later flight to my destination, but then missed the return flight home. Would they book me on a flight the next day and pay for my hotel?

    Thanks in advance,

  5. Mike,

    Thanks for reading my blog, I appreciate it!

    Your question doesn’t have any one, straightforward answer. At the end of the day it would be up to the gate agent, as they have a lot of discretion in cases like this. My strategy is always to be straightforward with the agent and to explain my itinerary itinerary. I wouldn’t necessarily say you’re flying for miles, but you could always say you had to meet someone at an airport, you were supposed to have a meeting which won’t be happening anymore, etc.

    Depending on what the other options are, chances are that they can send you right back to your origin, if you’d like, instead of continuing on. If you do get bumped off of the last flight of the night chances are they’ll give you a hotel and they’ll definitely confirm you the next day, but that doesn’t necessarily apply if you take a bump upstream somewhere before you get to that point.

    Seriously though, if you explain the situation to the agent I almost guarantee that they’ll appreciate it and you’ll be better off. For example, I was recently booked TPA-IAD-DEN-SEA-IAD-TPA. I got to DEN and took a bump for the DEN-SEA flight. The agent rebooked me on the next one, and they were once again looking for volunteers. I explained to the agent that I had a day filled with irregular operations and would be perfectly happy just taking the redeye back to IAD, which he happily rebooked me on. As luck had it that was oversold as well and I got another $600 voucher!

    Have fun and good luck!

  6. Oliver,

    To each their own. I actually enjoy mileage runs so the way I look at it, it’s like paying a $200 premium to fly C vs. F for 20 hours. That’s a deal, at least in my situation, especially when it’s for my family and not me.

  7. Interesting read on mileage runs. My take on mileage runs is that my wife has flown in F more than I have. She was the beneficiary of many of my sore butt long hauls in economy. All in the family.

    Mileage runs have always been a matter of time or money for me. Time is an issue for most of us that work and don’t fly frequently for work. Going half way around the world for a 4-day weekend is not all fun, but certainly has its pleasures. It sometimes makes sense in a cost-benefit analysis to fly half-way around the world for the potential benefits in frequent flyer miles.

    The money savings is without a doubt the prime motivator. I estimate I have flown about one million miles and about half in business or first. I’ve never bought a business or first class ticket; all miles and upgrades with certificates or complimentary (does that still happen?).

    Before the added fees of the past two years, flying 100,000 miles a year on bargain tickets like $400 to Europe and $500 to Asia provided enough mileage returns to get 3 or 4 premium class international mileage tickets a year. And just getting the high elite status meant I was upgraded most of the time.

    It is not all that cheap to make lots of mileage runs, but certainly the strategy is an affordable way to travel frequently around the world for under $5,000 in airfare per year. And a lot of that flying will be in business and first class if you plan it well.

  8. With all due respect, I am trying to make my first MR run. I’m on disability & believe that I could truly benefit from this. Is there someone who teaches MR seminars? Because of my condition I fly to Dom. Repub.(STI) & Jamaica 2-3x/yr. I would also like to know how to do a domestic run to MSY. My base is PHL but I fly out of JFK for STI. I’ve recently discovered EWR. I normally use DL & am trying to use AA (I heard their program was better). PLS HELP LUCKY/ANYONE ELSE W/ A GOOD HEART!

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *