It’s time to start earning miles! I need 50,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), or as I like to call them, Butt in Seat Miles, by December 31 to maintain my Platinum Status, and also earn enough miles to pay for our next great vacation. I’ll get the year off to a nice start when my wife and I travel to Ireland on vacation; I’ll earn 9,300 EQMs for that trip (Austin to Chicago to Dublin and back), but I need to build on that.

Trips to Seattle and Portland were not an option. Although the prices on both have dropped since my previous post, neither of them were an attractive mileage run. I visited the Mileage Run Forum on Flyer Talk and saw that some of the American Airlines mileage runners were doing weekend trips to Dublin and Frankfurt, Germany. Those are expensive trips, more than I would generally like to pay for a trip, but you earn so many miles that it can be worth it. Last year I did a hop to Frankfurt and achieved my lowest cost per mile ever: 1.74 cpm, including my Platinum bonus). I’d love to get another flight like that, but flights under 3 cpm from Austin have been tough to find.

I looked at the Frankfurt and Dublin trips and even found one I liked: Austin to Dallas to Atlanta to Chicago to Dublin to Chicago to Los Angeles to Austin. The cpm on that was less than 2.25, but I passed on it. The layover in Chicago on the way back was only an hour and twenty-five minutes, not enough time, in my opinion. to clear customs, change terminals, and get to the gate on time. I saw another one I liked, similar to the one above but without the Los Angeles route but did not jump on it fast enough and the price rose by over $200 by the time I was ready to buy it the next day. (Yes, American does allow you to put an itinerary on hold, but that only holds the schedule, it does not hold the fare. I put an itinerary on hold last year and when I tried to purchase it the next morning, the fare had doubled!)

The overseas trips were not working out for me, so I looked at some domestic routes. Some of the mileage runners at Flyer Talk found a great deal on American for round trips between Boston and Seattle. I had done that a few years ago (Austin to Dallas to New York LaGuardia to Boston to St. Louis to Seattle to Dallas to Austin) and got a really good price on it, but couldn’t get it to work for me this time.

Eventually, I did find a transcon MR that would work for me and booked it: Austin to Dallas to Boston to Los Angeles back to Boston to Dallas to Austin. The transcon flights are both non-stop, those are getting harder to find. I’ll leave Austin at 8 a.m. on Saturday and return 7 p.m. Sunday. I’ll earn 9,346 EQMs, 18,692 total miles, at a cost per mile of 2.56. That is a bit more per mile than I have paid in the past, but from what others are saying, it is a good rate at this time of fare hikes and service reductions.

I’m doing the trip in early March on what may be one of the last non-stop flights between Boston and Los Angeles. I looked at the same trip for the following weekend and the transcons were gone, making it necessary to stop in Chicago while going each way. And the price went up by more than $300, making that a terrible mileage run.

Between this MR and our Ireland vacation, I’ll have over 18,000 EQMs in my account by the middle of March. That is a good start, but as fares rise during the summer vacation season, it may be difficult to maintain that pace for the rest of the year. Wish me luck!