I have talked a bit about mileage runs in the recent past, yet I’ve actually never completed one. I bought a ticket in the Fall of 2011, or rather 6 tickets, which constitutes a mileage run which I am about to embark on next week.

For those of you that may not know what a mileage run is, essentially it is a itinerary, usually complicated in structure, with a primary purpose of earning miles/points in an airline frequent flier program. There are two kinds of miles that can be earned when flying: there are the miles/points where, when enough has accrued, they may be redeemed for award travel (free flights) or other such things; then there are the elite qualification miles/points. The elite qualification miles/points may be called different things across different airline programs, but they are generally the miles/points that can accrue toward “elite status” with an airline. These miles differ from the award miles; award miles can usually be earned through many of the frequent flier program’s partners, such as through dining at restaurants, branded credit cards, etc., while elite qualification miles are what’s called BIS (“butt-in-seat”) miles, which most of the time must be earned by flying.

Fliers taking part in mileage runs usually do so for the latter-mentioned form of mileage. Elite status on airlines can earn travelers conveniences such as priority boarding, waived baggage fees, upgraded seats, and so forth, but they are only valid for a year at a time, usually expiring on December 31st of the year after the elite status is reached. Normally, fliers book mileage runs towards the end of the year, as they scramble to earn the butt-in-seat miles needed so that they may continue, or reach a higher tier of, elite status the following year.

I booked my mileage run for very early in the year to put my money where my mouth is. I have explained different strategies to booking low-cost flights at every possible moment to anyone that would listen, both here on Dauntless Jaunter and with my friends, family, and colleagues; this mileage run I put together is one I am pretty proud of. The general measure by with which a mileage run is calculated is CPM, or cents per mile. This is the cost that each elite qualification mile bears for the entire trip; A good cost per mile on a mileage run trip is usually anything under $0.04 per mile. For instance, that would basically mean a trip from SFO-JFK, of which a roundtrip flight is about 5158 miles, to be $200, and that’s at the higher end of the spectrum. New York to San Francisco is usually anywhere from $250 – $450 roundtrip, so you can see how this is a good deal.

So, the mileage run I put together back in the Fall of ’11 goes like this:

2/2/12 – 2/6/12

New York City to Montreal, Amsterdam, Warsaw, and Paris.

  • 2/2/12 – New York to Montreal
    • 536 km (333 miles).
    • Delta Flight 4174 (9:30am) to YUL (11:16am).
    • This is a 7-hour layover with which I can leave the airport, take photos, grab a late lunch, etc.
  • 2/2/12 – Montreal to Amsterdam
    • 5499 km (3417 miles).
    • Delta Flight 9392 YUL (6:55pm) to AMS (7:50am).
    • It looks like it’s a long flight, but I lose 6 hours going east, I will be getting to Amsterdam at almost 2am NYC time.
    • I will try to catch some Z’s on this flight, which is about 7 hours long.
    • Hotel not necessary for the night of Feb 2-3.
    • 2+ hours layover in Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport.
  • 2/3/12 – Amsterdam to Warsaw
    • 1100 km (684 miles).
    • KLM Flight 1363 AMS (10:05am) to WAW (12:00pm).
    • Warsaw, the main portion of my trip.
    • 2 full days in Warsaw, and they are weekend days, Friday through Sunday!
  • 2/5/12 – Warsaw to Amsterdam
    • 1186 km (737 miles).
    • KLM Flight 1364 WAW (12:55pm) to AMS (3:05PM).
    • Leave Warsaw for Amsterdam, and have a mid-afternoon arrival.
    • The rest of the day to do some quick sightseeing.
  • 2/6/12 – Amsterdam to Paris
    • 398 km (247 miles).
    • KLM Flight 1229 AMS (8:00am) to CDG (9:25am).
    • A perfect, day-long layover: 10 hours to grab breakfast, lunch, take some photos, etc.
  • 2/6/12 – Paris to New York
    • 5829 km (3622 miles).
    • Air France Flight 8 CDG (7:10PM) to JFK (9:20PM).
    • Gain my 6 hours back as I head west back to NYC.
    • 8-hour flight, try to catch some shuteye again, though it would be more ideal to wait until after I get back, as I land right after 9pm.

Total mileage for this entire itinerary: 9460 miles earned.

Total cost of flights, including taxes & fees: $318.20 USD.

CPM = $0.0336 or 3.3 cents per mile

*Actual flown miles are only 9040, because leg #1 (JFK-YUL) is only 333 miles and leg #5 (AMS-CDG) is only 247 miles. However, Delta Airlines (and most airlines) has a 500-mile minimum, which means that if a leg/segment is shorter in distance, they will credit you with at least 500 miles, both in award mileage and elite qualification mileage.

*Though I am flying three different airlines (Delta, KLM, and Air France), they are all affiliated through the Skyteam Alliance, which allows me to earn all miles into one frequent flier account, so I chose to earn them towards my Delta Skymiles account.

For many of you, this might seem like an ill-conceived way to earn miles; for others, it may appear to be one hell of a headache and not worth all the effort. However, I am quite fond of this complex and rushed schedule. First, I’ve been to Paris, Amsterdam, and Canada in the past, so I can add Warsaw to my accomplishments. I am spending the majority of my time there, though it’s only two days. Also, though my schedule is a bit hurried, I have quite a bit of time in each of my layover cities with which to see a few sites, take several photos, and grab a meal or two: 7 hours in Montreal, 17 hours in Amsterdam (an overnight stay), and 10 hours in Paris. Had I not had enough time to leave the airport (3 hour layovers or less), I wouldn’t even include these cities on my agenda. Another point is that I am quite at home on a plane; I anxiously await each and every upcoming flight as I venture to different destinations. Finally, I am only a lowly Silver Medallion on Delta Airlines, which is the bottom tier of their elite status hierarchy; this itinerary and all the miles I earned will allow me to work towards my goal of Gold Medallion, or maybe even higher, for 2013.

So what does elite status really mean, and why is it worth all this time and effort? Elite status means different things for different airline frequent flier programs, and they also differ between the various levels of elite status in each program, but there are several general benefits:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades, if available (the higher the tier, the sooner it becomes available).
  • Premium seat availability.
  • Priority wait list/standby
  • Priority security line
  • Priority check-in line
  • Priority boarding
  • Bonus miles (usually anywhere from 25%-100% on miles flown)
  • Waived fees: baggage, ticketing, etc.
  • Lounge access

These are some of the standard perks of being an elite member, though they may not all be available with every program or level of elite status. But if you are a fairly frequent flier, small perks such as priority boarding and security line entry may mean the world to you; I know I don’t ever want to not be elite again!

If you are interested in learning more about mileage runs, elite status, and other related aspects of flying, you can read some of my other posts:

What is a Mileage Run and How Do I Construct One?

Travel Hacking – How Necessity is Mothering Invention

How to Choose the Best Frequent Flier Program

2 COMMENTS

    • This is a rare find, but I talk about this sort of thing in the Travel Hacking section of the site. Basically, I paid for a trip to Warsaw from New York, which at around $320 is still an unbelievable fare. Then, I chose to take 2 stops in either direction, and “forced” layovers of more than a few hours. Thus, I was able to spend 8 hours in Montreal on the way to Warsaw, and 24 hours in Amsterdam and 10 hours in Paris on the way home.

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