I recently completed a "mileage run" to increase the likelihood of retaining my MVP status on Alaska Airlines. I got to wondering how beneficial such trips have become with the current revenue based earning schemes on the major airlines. In the past, finding a great fare to a moderately distant destination made more sense as miles were based on distance traveled rather than the price of the ticket. Alaska is one of the few (if not only of the US) carriers to retain a mileage based system.
Alaska granted me a status match from my UA Silver that I gained from the RewardsPlus program. I decided I would try to earn the necessary miles/segments needed to retain the MVP (Most Valuable Passenger) status beyond the end of 2016. To do so I needed
Since AS does not fly into my home airport, the first option is essentially useless to me. Activity from earlier in the year put me at about 11,500 miles and 14 segments all on American and Delta, or just about halfway to retaining MVP status for another year. While searching for inexpensive RT flights out of CMH, I found a fare on AA to DFW returning to CMH the same day for $136. Most of the time, a good fare on that route runs about $225, so I decided to book. Strangely, the routing required stops in Charlotte and Nashville on the way to Dallas with a nonstop flight back to Columbus. Normally, I'd want nonstop both ways, but since this was just a day in the air, the extra segments weren't a problem. In fact, having two extra flights might come in handy as it will make it more likely that I'll reach 30 segments.
So, by 10:00am I was at the airport waiting for my flight to CLT. Not being at a major hub, many of the flights out of CMH are on regional carriers. Between CMH and CLT and from CLT to BNA, the flights were on PSA under the American Eagle umbrella. Both legs were on CRJ-900, which is my favorite of the regional planes. Taking a tip from clebert, I used my MVP status to pick preferred seats and then 24 hours before flight time, moved up to Main Cabin Extra at no charge. I don't mind paying for seats if I get something extra (like "free" drinks on Delta Comfort+) but AA MCE only offers extra space which, to me, is not worth the price.
Still, extra space is nice and the "bulkhead" row at the front of the economy section on the CR9 is my favorite place. No wall to contend with, so bags can go under the seat ahead (the last row in first class). The seats are so far away it's difficult to reach your carry-on without unbuckling the seatbelt. A day before the flights, I moved up to this row on both CR9 flights, window seats both times but on opposite side of the aisle for variety.
The connection in BNA was tight, just 40 minutes and although we arrived as scheduled, by the time I deplaned, boarding for the flight to DFW was just minutes away. From BNA to DFW the plane was a B739 B738, so I had chosen a seat one row back from the bulkhead. There wasn't quite as much space, but it was sufficient. The most interesting part of this flight came as we crossed the Mississippi. I was looking out the window at the river and highways far below, and was able to pick out the interchange where I-55 meets I-555 in Arkansas. I identified the point where I turned off of I-555 and onto US 61 a couple weeks earlier on my most recent county collecting trip (Highway 61 Revisited). Well, I thought it was cool.
After a 2 hour layover in DFW, I returned home on an MD-80, again one row back from the bulkhead. Bulkhead rows are fine, but I prefer being able to stow at least one carry-on under the seat in front of me (on this mileage run, I only had one carry-on).
Being in NC, TN, and TX all in the same day, IAHFLYR would never speak to me again if I didn't eat BBQ for either lunch or dinner. I choose to go with Carolina BBQ and a local beer for lunch in CLT, which freed me up to eat Tex-Mex (complete with a margarita) at DFW for dinner.
All in all, it was a good day. By 9:30pm I was back at my home airport. I'd probably do something like this again were the price cheap enough, though it may take a day or so before my stiff neck goes away (all that staring out the windows ). My current travel plans will put me at 32 flight segments by July (hmm, I wonder if I can reach MVP Gold by getting to 60 segments ). I think I'd want to include an overnight on any future mileage runs. Twelve hours of flying only to end up back home just isn't something I look forward to, though this trip did accomplish its purpose.
I haven't done the exact calculations, but I flew about 2000 miles. AA didn't get much revenue (taking out the taxes and fees the fare was $91.16 - less than 5 cents per mile ). I'm sure somebody's FC made up for my bargain one. When all's said and done, I should earn close to 3800 miles (minimum 500 miles per segment., plus 50% bonus for MVP status). Not bad for what I paid.
So, now I'm curious. What do Insiders think of mileage runs now that most airlines award miles based on ticket price instead of distance? Does it still make sense? Would you do (or have you done) something similar if you knew you needed just a few more miles or segments to reach the next elite level?
Message was edited by: bejacob to correct aircraft type from BNA to DFW.
1) They are useful to achieve something if you'll use it.
2) The price has to make sense.
3) If you can add a purpose other than just the miles, even better.
Good job bejacob
Not something I would ever spend my time or money doing, especially if my travel plans were to already put me over 30 segs by mid-year, with no goal beyond retaining MVP. I'm baffled, to be honest. Just not something I would ever consider doing without a greater (enriching) purpose.
With a trip to Hawaii planned for next March and my MVP status expiring in December, I wanted to find a way to make sure I fly enough this year to extend my status into next year. At the time I booked, I only had one other trip planned, so I wasn't sure that I'd reach 30 segments by December. Three new trips (DEN, ICT, and RSW) found their way onto my schedule and if all are on DL or AA will add 12 segments, so reaching 30 no longer appears questionable. That wasn't the case when I purchased this itinerary.
I am trying something different this year which will add to my county collecting quest. Normally when I fly somewhere I want to make the most of the flights, so I stay in an area for 4-5 days covering as much ground as I can. This year, I'm experimenting with weekend trips flying somewhere like DEN or ICT and only staying a couple days before heading home. With fewer days, I'll visit fewer counties, but I with more trips, the overall yearly number may come out similar. This will be my preferred method to gaining flight segments/miles as the year progresses.
I most certainly would bejacob. Heck, I even do mattress runs Or, um, "meeting" runs to retain status. I've fallen off that horse recently, but will need to build my way back up. I've never held airline elite status, though I'd like to travel enough to one day. You know, HNL-SEA/PDX/LAX should net your around 5,000 miles... Just saying
I Know many people who seem to always fly a few business trips in December . When you ask them why fly so close to the holidays they always say how important the meeting is - that is to get to the top level of whatever airline they fly. I certainly have given it thought a few times. Now that I fly less and have lifetime on AA at the 50k level I don't worry about it . it seems it really just cost you time so looks like a good deal.
Like others on this forum (I'm looking at you kharada46) I've done "meeting runs" (in my case 3 meetings in 2014) on a calculation balancing small costs (£100 net for all 3) against the 30 nights which rolled over to 2015 enabling me to keep Plat for 2016 when I fell very short AND giving me a total of 60 LT nights thus ensuring if I do drop to Gold in 2017 it'll only be for a short while till LTPlat kicks in later that year. The meeting run will ensure I reach LTPlat 50 nights (taking into account my UK credit card nights) earlier than I otherwise would and since the extra points for Plat are worth about 1000 per night over Gold I will in the long term be 50,000 points better off, worth about $500
About 5 years ago I did a mattress run for 2 very cheap nights to keep Gold for the next year.
At IHG I did a 1-night mattress run costing £70 to secure a 60,000 IHG promo I later redeemed for a stay costing $500.
So, yes, I do see the point of these but I set myself clear objectives and I'm not sure you quite did here, bejacob. Firstly its a bit early in the year to be sweating requalification. You're now on a treadmill, to make this mileage run pay you need to requalify, if you're not there by year-end you'll have to do yet more mileage runs to ensure this wasn't a waste of $136 and a day of your life! Each such extra flight/segment will of course be yet greater cost towards retaining a status you actually use infrequently and hence perhaps don't get that much benefit from - though that depends on the benefits, for instance the 25k Marriott Gold buyback makes great sense for a 20-night FS stayer since the room upgrades, lounge and free breakfasts easily exceed the point value. The problem with mileage runs to requalify is that if you're not able to do the mileage/stays to make the level without the run, then you're effectively paying for the status just by the act of undertaking the run. So no, sorry pal, whilst I do understand them, I'm not sure I see the economic argument for this one!
On the other hand, you're an accountant so I'm assuming you've crunched the numbers. So fill us in, how does the math work here?
Objective 1: work toward retaining MVP status for 2017 for a planned trip on AS to Hawaii next March.
Objective 2: take advantage of a low fare to pad my mileage balance (still based on miles rather than dollars)
At the time I booked, reaching 30 segments looked questionable. WIth 3 unplanned trips added, it no longer seems difficult. It's possible I did waste a day and the money spent. The calculus certainly made sense when I purchased. Later events may have made it less so.
The other factor is my mileage balance. I cleared it out last year for a couple RT tickets to Hawaii. It's growing again as is almost enough to cash in again for next year. I haven't decided if I will do so, but a month or two ago, it wouldn't have been an option.
I hope AS never goes to a revenue based earning formula. They may do so someday and a day trip like this would be rendered completely pointless. As it was, I gained a little something out of it (besides a stiff neck ).
I will say that flying all day just to end up back home isn't all that much fun. In my youth, I would have loved it. If I do anything similar again, I'll have to pair it with some county collecting or a MegaBonus and at least spend a night in a Marriott somewhere.
Mileage runs and/or mattress runs could possibly make sense in December in certain scenarios (and in my experience, there are always good rates in December, providing you don't fly on prime holiday travel dates), but not March, when there is still so much year left, as you have found out, since it has already turned out that you will make MVP by mid-year, rendering your mileage run unnecessary. I personally, as a non-business flyer, have my segments mapped out for the year by January (or sometimes even before.) If I ever did a mileage run, there would have to be some additional value to it other than miles and segments.
Since you're already planning on traveling first class on AS with a non-status companion next March, I still don't see how MVP will help you with this. First class is first class regardless of status. If it's miles you need to redeem for first class tickets, you could've bought them (2,000 miles for $55, 4,000 for $110, etc.) If I ever did a mileage run, I would know exactly how many miles I would gain before ever pulling the trigger and compare it to the cost of just purchasing outright. Again, I guess I'm still not understanding this.
As far as AS not ever changing to a revenue based program, I already see the writing on the wall. Hopefully, it will still take a few years.
My best explanation is that when I booked, I expected to reach about 24 segments by December and found a low fare, so I grabbed it. Back then, I only had 6 segments completed with 8 more reserved and 2-4 more in the planning stages. Given where I stand today (18 complete with 10 booked and 4 more planned), I probably wouldn't make the same decision, but AT THE TIME it made sense. Of course if I reach MVP Gold (which I admit is a longshot) because of this trip, then I'll be quite pleased.
Worst case, I pick up ~4,000 miles for just a little over what I could have bought them for and I got to set foot in an airport to which I had never been (BNA) while escaping what turned out to be a cold, snowy Saturday in Ohio (relatively rare in April, but not unheard of).
Would I do it again? Probably not, but if I end up with 56 segments by December, I can envision looking for a cheap 4-leg RT to push me over the top. With my county collecting now focused on the west and northwest, I expect to travel by air (maybe even on AS) more next year, so having status will probably be important.
Indeed, I'm sure AS would appreciate you actually spending revenue with them someday, since they've been so obviously generous with you. I tend to think that their award winning mileage program combined with their very reasonable airfares, probably can't be sustained over the long haul, if people continue to exploit them. At some point, it would seem that something's got to give, in which case, I think it will likely be their mileage program.
I've been a AS MileagePlan member since 2001 when my home airport was SEA (before that I was with America West when they had a hub in CMH). I flew at least two RTs to Calif (Bay area or LA) as well as partner flights back to CMH to visit family several times a year. I made a trek to PHX for Mariners spring training one year. I never quite flew enough to get status, but a few years I wasn't far off.
I keep hoping that AS will start daily flights to SEA and/or PDX from CMH. They've been adding cities with some regularity (BNA, DTW, and MKE) joined not all that long ago. My problem is that I moved away from AS territory and had to fly partners to keep my membership active. Despite getting UA Silver from RewardsPlus, UA is still my 3rd choice out of CMH. There are only 2 daily mainline flights, both to ORD. Everything else is United Express (DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, and ORD). I'd love to be back where AS flies. For now, I have to make do with what I can. I've been a big fan for quite some time. I'm not giving up now.
bejacob, I agree about the CRJ-900s because of the bulkhead underseat storage. Those are my favorite RJs, too. I haven't ever done a mileage run solely for the purpose of racking up qualifying segments or miles. But last year I did pay for gold status on AA because I didn't fly enough to earn it. So far it's working very well as I've gotten one free upgrade to first class at the gate agent's discretion, and I've been able to get MCE seats for the entire family on our Aruba trip at no charge, plus I've got a business trip to Puerto Rico on AA coming up where I have a long leg from SJU to ORD where I can hopefully get into MCE since my client won't pay for first class or for MCE charges for my flights. I will have to see where I am at the end of the year for status, then maybe a mileage run would make sense but I'd probably do at least a 1-night pitstop somewhere if possible. Last December I was checking in at the DL desk, and the passenger ahead of me was doing a crazy 6-leg itinerary around the US. The agent smiled and politely commented that the passenger must be doing a mileage run to maintain her status, so apparently this is fairly common!
Well done Sir.....Carolina BBQ and followed up by a Rita even if it was close to that place to my north, at least you were near Ft. Worth!!!
I've done the segment/mileage run, but it was in in the fall or maybe even December and got me to the next level that I would not have reached otherwise. At time it made perfect sense to me to make that day trip to Austin, enjoy a couple of drinks in the CO President's Club an hop on the same plane back home about 90 minutes later. Now days though with the different way we got hosed on the programs I think it still makes sense if you track your progress closely and find the cheapest way to gain a level of status.
Now, are you sure you were on a B739 on AA? Come on AV Geek.....really on AA?
If that's not enough, I've got runway numbers from the trip.
CMH departed 28L
CLT landed 36L, departed 36C
BNA landed 2R, departed 2L
DFW landed 17C, departed 17R
CMH landed 28L
Of course, only you would care about that, IAHFLYR. I jotted them down with you in mind.
When I worked for a living, I was always close on Air Canada status at the end of the year. If during the year there was a trip to Seoul or a couple of trips to Europe, I was knew I was ok, but most of my trips were Toronto to Ottawa and Toronto to Montreal. As the year end approached, I went as far as flying to Ottawa through Montreal, and Montreal through Ottawa, just to maintain Star Alliance Gold. As long as the price was about the same, the employer did not care and I used flight passes so the price was the same
I did it for only one reason, I would get bumped up to executive almost every time, and I could get into the lounge, A lot of rules changed in 2012, which made it not worth it as it became harder to get upgrades, and there were restrictions on international lounges.
Now that I don't have status other than the star alliance silver through MR, I do a lot of research and have flown first class as much as ever by just watching the lowest price. I also consolidated my credit cards so that I only have the Marriot and AMEX. The Amex lets me into a lot of pretty good lounges.
My co-workers thought I was crazy in my segment chasing days, but I actually enjoyed it.
Love that line, "when I worked for a living"!!!!
I have to say we were very unimpressed with the AMEX Centurion Club at SEA, very very mundane and small. Hear the SFO and LAX clubs are better, any intel?
The Seattle lounge is what they call a centurion studio. That means limited service to hungry and thirsty patrons. I would not judge Centurion lounges based on that one, but I think it was a horrible business decision to put it there.
I think the centurion in DFW is superior to most North American domestic airline lounges. I usually have a grandchild or three in tow and they had a pretty full buffet and kept my glass full.
The centurion in LAS is the best lounge by far in the airport and one of the nicest domestic lounge that I have been in from a service point of view. The AMEX gets you into the plaza premium lounges and there is one of those in most airports in Canada and at LHR. I was Air Canada at SFO and LAX so used the maple leaf lounge which was also an AMEX offering, the Centurion was in another terminal.
Before UA's recent conversion to revenue-based scheme I'd considered doing some crazy runs, but never could justify it in the end. I mean, taking a weekend to fly to Australia and back just to get to Gold? That was just one of the options I'd considered in my younger, crazier days. I don't travel enough that status makes that much difference, more of a nice-to-have if I could get there. I traveled somewhat more for work back then, too; two hops to Europe in a year was fairly common, along with a couple domestics, such that status was close enough that it was tempting.
Lately the cost cuts and technology improvements have made travel less necessary and less approved for work, so chasing status is now not an option at all. I'll just resort to paying for business or first class when flying long flights, as it's probably cheaper overall than chasing status to try for upgrades. Perhaps I'll get lifetime status in a few decades doing it this way!
hassmh, Your point is well taken, in a way as time goes on technology is replacing business travel. In 1998, I remember being sent to Daejeon Korea for a four hour meeting. Nowadays that would be handled through a video conference.
I too agree with your philosophy hassmh If I get status it is good. Otherwise I am just grateful that the hotels we are well known at treat us very well.
I don't know if this works nowadays, as it is sometime since we travelled abroad, but we used to be frequent flier members. We regularly flew to the US. What used to book economy at the best rate we could, then use our miles to upgrade to business class. Because we had paid for economy, we got miles on those fares, and it all became self financing to travel business class.
My wife did a mileage run once to retain AA Gold. Now she was Plat for 2014, but due to less work travel she was going fall short of even Gold for 2015 but only by a few miles. I found a cheap itinerary for her and she spent about 10 hours and less than $200 to retain Gold. LGA-DFW-ORD-LGA. Left LGA 6AM and I picked her up around 4PM. It was worth it for her for two reasons with my logic. First off, she already flew 22,000 miles (many regional flights) and those would have been for nothing had she not reached Gold, and second, she had enough flights for the next year that the Gold status would absolutely help her in regards to snagging MCE seats, and upgrades as she had some in her account and the mileage run netted 4 more upgrades to boot. I would never fly around the world and spend days of my life to retain status, but in this limited case, we both agreed the time and $ was worth it.