This has been a productive year so far. I have done three mileage runs and earned almost 30,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). One of my goals for the year is to hit 50,000 EQMs by December 31 to keep my Platinum Status with American Airlines in 2009. So, I need more flights, more miles.

Southwest Airlines has announced new service from Austin to several cities including Philadelphia, Oakland, Orlando, with one-way flights starting at $79. I’m always glad to see that because American Airlines will usually equal Southwest’s fares at the start. A price war is good, giving additional mileage run opportunities.

I’ve made so many trips to the West Coast that I looked to see if I could get a deal on a flight to Philadelphia; the East Coast would be nice for a change! Sure enough, American is matching Southwest’s offer, but it is not a very good mileage run. I can fly Austin – DFW – Philadelphia – DFW – Austin, tax included, for $200. With my Platinum bonus, that comes to 2.77 cents per mile, nothing special there.

I looked further, and found Austin – Chicago – Philadelphia – Chicago – Austin, for $200, but that came to over three cents per mile.

You may ask “How can that be? You are flying a greater distance when you go through Chicago.” Yes, that is true, but I loose the bonus of flying between Austin and DFW. AA gives 500 miles or more for every flight. So, even though AUS-DFW is only 183 miles, I would earn 500 for it. I loose that extra-miles advantage when flying direct to Chicago.

Sounds like I need to fly to Chicago via DFW.

So, I looked some more and found Austin- DFW – Chicago – Philadelphia – Chicago – DFW – Austin for $207. Six flights in one day at 2.61 cents per mile. Nope, still not a good deal. I kept looking.

And then I found that weird trip that a mileage runner loves, the kind that earns us a weird look from the gate agent when we check in: Austin – DFW – Chicago – St. Louis – Philadelphia – Chicago – DFW – Austin. First flight at 6 a.m., get back to AUS at midnight. $211 at 2.29 cents per mile. Not great, but not bad! But then I noticed a problem, short connection times.

A 35 minute layover in Chicago. Only 30 minutes in St. Louis, and with a change from American Airlines to American Eagle, I might have to also change terminals. Given the way the system has been operating lately, I just can’t see taking that risk, 30-35 minutes is simply not enough time to change flights. So, although this is a good deal from a cost-per-miles standpoint, I’ll pass on it.

The search for the next mileage run continues.