Every year airline frequent flyer programs reset back to zero with the exception of Delta Air Lines which allows elite flyers to rollover qualifying miles past the achieved status level. Usually due to numerous circumstances throughout the year, many travelers find themselves short of an expected elite level.
To overcome this issue, savvy flyers identify flight options that have very quick return while accumulating enough qualifying miles, and pricing out very low in regards to the ratio known as cents per mile. Ideally a mileage run should cost less than 5 cents per mile, be completed in a day or overnight, and be completed with the intention of earning miles for elite status.
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An example could be a frequent business traveler who annually flies 78,000 qualifying miles, however this year ends up with 65,000 qualifying miles. In this situation, frequent flyers often evaluate factors such as status level and benefits. Additional considerations include how many miles they need to earn, and time and financial commitments.
If they determine that achieving a select elite status is worth it, they will purchase a ticket that essentially goes no-where because upon arriving at a destination they will quickly return to the origination. One such option is JFK-LAX-JFK in a single day which earns a little shy of 5,000 qualifying miles and can be found for prices as low as $250.
Generally, you find that mileage runs are done by travelers who are trying to reach high tiered elite status such as American Airlines’ Executive Platinum or Delta Air Lines’ Diamond Medallion where the value of benefits is substantial, and many consider worth the effort and cost to make a mileage run. However, airlines has changed the requirements over the past few years making it more difficult to achieve elite status by requiring a spend requirement in addition to qualifying miles.
For example, United Airlines requires that passengers earn $12,000 on fares in addition to flying 100,000 miles annually to hit their 1K status. It’s usually towards the end of the year when travelers have a full picture of their remaining travel and can make an appropriate decision about complete a mileage run.
Over the years many travelers have begun to rethink the mileage run due to numerous factors including what they perceive as devalued benefits, difficult status requirements, and limited mileage run opportunities. A notable mileage run for Delta passengers has always been a US to Singapore (SIN) via Tokyo (NRT) earning anywhere from 18,000 to 25,000 qualifying miles for as little as $700, but taking almost 60+ hours to complete assuming an immediate return.
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