Why I Do Mileage Runs


Why I do mileage runs


I love to fly to exotic locations around the world, but don’t want to sit in a cramped coach seat for those very long transoceanic flights. This creates a problem for me: Business Class and First Class tickets are expensive, very expensive, much more than I can afford, so I had to find another way to pay for my trips. Mileage Runs (MRs) are my solution.

As I explain in the Mileage Run FAQ, “a mileage run is a trip designed specifically to earn miles or points from an airline frequent flyer program. You may or may not allow yourself enough time to leave the airport and visit the city you’ve stopped in: the main goal is to earn miles.”

Mileage runs give me a way to take trips that I could otherwise not afford.

Here is an example of one great trip my wife and I took. In 2007 we visited Asia for our wedding anniversary. We flew First Class on American Airlines to Los Angeles, then Business Class on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong. After a few days in Hong Kong we flew Cathay to Thailand. Ten days later we flew Business Class on Japan Airlines from Bangkok to Tokyo to Chicago, then First Class on American Airlines to Austin. My total cost for that was a $125 processing fee: if I had purchased those tickets they would have cost over $8,000 each. If I had to pay full price for those tickets, we would not have been able to take that amazing trip.

But that was 2007, what about now? I tried to find the same itinerary on AA.com; I couldn’t match it but I came close: Austin to Chicago to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Hong Kong to San Francisco to Dallas to Austin. The cost for this in business class is $11,861.21.  I could get a less expensive ticket, $7,732.51 by flying through Shanghai, so let’s use that as our sample trip. I’d have to spend 110,000 miles to book that trip. (This is less than the 120,000 I used a few years ago.) If I spend 110,000 miles to pay for a trip that would cost $7,732.51, those miles are valued at slightly more than 7 cents each. (7,732.51 / 11,0000=7.02).

I have two mileage runs booked for September 2011.

  • Austin to DFW to Portland to Seattle to Chicago to Austin: ticket cost is $264. With my Gold bonus, I earn 6,643 miles at a cost of 3.99 cents per mile. If someone had Platinum Status and took that trip they’d get 10,630 miles at a cost of 2.49 cents per mile.
  • Austin to Chicago to Seattle to Chicago to Austin: ticket cost is $281. With my Gold bonus I earn 6,746 miles at a cost of 4.17 cents per mile. A Platinum mileage runner would earn 10,796 miles at 2.6 cents per mile.

So, in effect I am buying miles at 4 cents each, and then trade them back into the airline at 7 cents each. If I did the first trip I listed above I’d cash those miles in at almost 11 cents each!

Imagine telling a business that you want to make a $7,000 purchase, but want to pay for it in advance, $200 here, $300 there, until it is fully paid. Many businesses would agree to that proposal; that’s what you are doing when you put an item in layaway. But then you tell them that you want them to drop the price of the item from $7,000 to $4,000 (ore even less if I have Platinum status and earn 100% bonus on miles instead of 25%). I can’t think of a business that would accept that deal, but that is exactly what the airline is doing for me.

When I do a mileage run, I am pre-paying for a future trip, and getting the trip at a substantially discounted price. Mileage runs have enabled my wife and I to travel to places we would otherwise not have been able to visit. And that is why I do mileage runs.

Please take the time to read my Mileage Run FAQ. If you have questions, contact me at the link below.

Welcome to the world of mileage runs!

  • #1 written by Ko
    about 5 years ago

    I really enjoy your mileage run explanation. Really puts things in perspective.

  • #2 written by Laurie Brocato
    about 3 years ago

    I have an American Airlines Platinum Visa Card. I am supposed to get free baggage checked however American booked me on United Airways & my partner & I were forced to pay for checked baggage. Wondering if this has happened to you. This was an International Flight which I booked on the telephone with an American Airlines Rep using Frequent Flyer Miles. United Airways refused to recognize the American Airlines Benefits.

  • #3 written by HappyFlier
    about 3 years ago

    HI Laurie,I am surprised that AA booked you on an airline that was not part of the OneWorld Alliance. Maybe you were going to a location that OneWorld does not serve. As far as not having them honor your AA status, that does not surprise me. Earlier this year we flew on AA from USA to London, and, as EXP, got our upgrade to business class. Once we got to London we transferred to Briish Airways, a OneWorld partner, and they did not care what status I was, the only way I was going to get an upgrade was by paying for a full-price ticket, which was an additional couple of thousand dollars. But we are using miles to go to Indonesia later this year, and both Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines are honoring our status. So I’d love to tell you that I have found a standard that works in every situation, but unfortunately I have not.

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