Mileage running: Why some folks plan extra travel in December

It’s December, which means it’s mileage running season for many frequent fliers. Not familiar with the concept? This is when some folks schedule extra trips just so they can reach the elite level of an airline’s frequent flier program.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re an American Airlines loyalist. And maybe you’ve flown 96,000 miles in 2013. American only has three elite frequent flier levels — 25,000 miles is the first level, 50,000 miles is the second and 100,000 is the third. With 96,000 miles, you only reach the second tier — with 46,000 miles to spare.

The second tier is nice, but the benefits are nowhere near as good as the third tier, called Executive Platinum. When you reach 100,000 miles, you start being automatically upgraded to first class when there are open seats on domestic flights. Not all flights have enough open first class seats for all the Executive Platinum customers, but 100,000 milers still receive plenty of free upgrades.

So if your spouse will allow it, it’s sometimes a good idea to make some unnecessary trips in December for the sole purpose of obtaining another 4,000 miles. A lot of folks spend weekends in December on these trips. Sometimes they don’t even spend the night in the destination. Often times, they simply fly around the country in a big circle.

A good mileage run — 30,352 miles to be exact, according to a follow-up tweet — looks like this:

There’s an entire message board at devoted to finding the best deals for what are called mileage runs. The basic idea is that you want to earn the most miles for the least cost. The inconvenience of actually spending a day or more essentially flying to nowhere does not seem to enter into the equation, at least for most.

The Flyertalk guys — and yes, they are mostly guys — are very excited now about a United Airlines fare sale. For $742.20, a price that includes tax, you can fly round trip between Los Angeles and Bahrain. The routing for this fare generally require two stops in both directions, so flying to Bahrain is not easy. But think of all the miles you get!

Have you ever done a mileage run? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever flown just for miles?

And here’s another good one from Twitter:

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  • Amol

    The rest of us fly enough in January – November to make status 😛

    • Brian Sumers

      Gotta plan ahead, I guess!

  • Bill n DC

    Last year when AA had Double EQM I did DCA-DFW-SAN-LAX-MIA-BOS-MIA-LAX-MIA-LAX-DFW-DCA (16,782 miles x2) Airside the whole trip. Most upgrades cleared, esp. the Mia-BOS after redeye in exit window seat #readytoquit.

    • Brian Sumers

      That’s awesome. Some day I hope to have the fortitude to make such a run.

  • Ian

    I thought I would do the public a favor and determine how long it takes to go from LAX terminal 7 to LAX terminal 6 via Philadelphia (LAX-DEN-PHL-ORD-LAX), the answer is 14 hours and 48 minutes.