What is a “mileage run?”

It’s usually around this time of year that newspapers will write articles about the crazy things that mileage addicts do to bump up their accounts at the end of the year.  Often, it’s in regards to people who are only a few miles (or thousand miles) away from the next tier of elite status and want to make it over the hump.  And since only miles that you fly count toward elite status (also known as “butt-in-seat” miles), they need to get on a plane.  The problem is, they have no plans to take trips before December 31.  What to do, what to do…

In this case, some people will take what is known as a “mileage run.”  The concept is simple: For a mileage run, you don’t care where your flight takes you.  You simply need a certain amount of frequent flyer miles.  For lack of a better term, it’s a trip to nowhere that usually involves choosing a cheap destination, boarding the aircraft, arriving at your destination and then hopping back on the same plane and returning to your origination.  For a mileage runner, the only thing that matters is getting a certain amount of miles as cheaply as possible.

Example: Let’s say you’re a New York resident and have 23,000 miles year-to-date on American Airlines.  You know that getting 25,000 miles for the year will earn you elite status for 2014, so you decide to do a mileage run.  Since Florida always seems to be a cheap destination (not a lot of business travelers on this route), you check out a couple of the flights to Florida.  Bang!  A round-trip flight to Palm Beach is only $218 and earns 1,035 miles each way!  You book a flight that leaves out of La Guardia at 7:30 am and arrives at Palm Beach at 10:40.  The return is only 45 minutes later, at 11:25 and gets you back to New York at 2:10 pm.  It probably uses the same plane, so you don’t need to worry about a late arrival.  You’ve earned elite status and have the whole afternoon left!

The above example is about as simple as it gets.  A non-stop flight in an inexpensive market is every mileage runner’s dream.  Often, you simply have to go to your airline’s website and keep trying destinations until you find one that meets your criteria.  It can take a few minutes, but leisure destinations such as Florida and Las Vegas often have great fares.

If nothing else, mileage running leads to great stories.  Often, you will see the same crew on the return as you had on the outbound.  Since mileage running has become so common, they’ll know exactly why you’re there and everyone will have a good laugh.  Other times, you’ll find yourself on a flight from New York to Boston.  By way of Los Angeles.  Even the customs officials are in on the game.  I once did a mileage run to London and the woman at customs thought it was suspicious that I had only spent a few hours in the country until I explained what I was doing.  After that, she shook her head, rolled her eyes and stamped my passport.

Bottom line: There’s little that a bit of ingenuity and fun can conquer.

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2 pings

  1. […] with the revenue generated per mile flown well below the Delta average, but it does take the mileage runners out of the […]

  2. […] connections don’t count (only your final destination counts), so I don’t exactly recommend a mileage run for it, but I have no doubt that somebody is out there plotting a way to pull it off (Okay, it’s […]

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