Mileage Runs

Get Your Kids Star Gold Status For $150 Each

Star-Alliance-Lounge-LAX-28

SAS is running a really awesome promotion this spring where kids can fly for almost free from the US to Europe.

You just need to book by January 23 and travel between February 7 and April 9. The best part is that you can take up to 8 kids with each paying adult. You’ll literally end up paying less than $50 for each round-trip child (under 11) ticket.

Scandinavia is a wonderful place and totally worth a trip or two, even in winter. My family just got back from Oslo, was in Helsinki last fall, and did Stockholm and Bergen a couple years ago. Yes, we really like it over there, and it’s an incredibly kid-friendly part of the world.

But let’s forget about the destination and focus on the miles for a bit. Is it possible to mileage run on this deal?

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Hot Deal: One-way Los Angeles To Stockholm For $99 On SAS

old city stockholm

SAS is launching service between Los Angeles and Stockholm, Sweden, starting on March 14.

Well, it turns out that to promote the launch of this route, SAS is selling one-way tickets from Los Angeles to Stockholm for $99, all-in. That’s pretty amazing.

The catch is that the tickets are only good for travel March 14-18 and March 20-25. And it’s only one-way. You officially need to book by March 6, but I wouldn’t be surprised if availability dries up before that.

I watched the discussion of this fare yesterday on FlyerTalk. Then Tiffany pinged me this morning practically begging me to write up it. She pointed out that I am the resident expert on being cheap, flying economy, and Star Alliance. Was there a compliment buried in that? I can’t tell.

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Getting A Head Start On Executive Platinum Status For 2016

American-A321-Business

We’re at the point in the year where I’m sure many of us are starting to plan our 2016 travels.

Living in hotels and on planes full time made it really easy for me to requalify for status this year. I more than double qualified for top tier status with American, Hyatt, and Starwood this year.

Some might ask why I didn’t go for status with more programs. Living in hotels full time I could have easily qualified for top tier status with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Starwood.

But after having played this game for about a decade, I was just tired of mattress running and trying to squeeze every possible stay credit out of a trip. I’d rather stay somewhere a bit longer and be able to enjoy a destination more, rather than switching hotels every night.

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Is The Copa 150,000 Bonus Mile Promotion Mileage Runnable?

copa promo 150k bonus

Copa Airlines is about to launch one of the more interesting promotions we’ve seen in a while. They are apparently celebrating service to 12 “new” destinations and offering tiered bonuses for flying to those cities between October 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. Those that fly to 10 of the 12 new destinations will be awarded 150,000 bonus miles.

Ben discussed the promo a bit last week where he concluded that this promotion might not be practical for those that aren’t based in Panama. He might be right, but he didn’t really provide any numbers to back up his conclusion — I guess that’s what I’m here for.

I will admit that I love these complex, convoluted, yet potentially lucrative promotions. I used to build massive spreadsheets to manage multiple accounts in the US Airways Grand Slam which once would have been gearing up right about now. Not only was it possible to earn a lot of miles and points, but it was also a good way to try new products and have new experiences. It was also a bit of a brainteaser as you’d try to figure out how to achieve all of the goals while minimizing the cost, the hassle, and perhaps most importantly, the risk. This promotion seems to fit that mold.

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Miles Aren’t Free: How To Value What You Earn

money tree

Figuring out how to value frequent flyer miles is tricky business. Most people have a vague concept of what a mile is worth to them, but if you press them on it, they don’t really know how they arrived at that number. Worse yet, if you start to question them about how they earn or redeem miles, their past behavior is likely to tell a very different story.

In Part 1 of this series, I showed how to calculate the redemption value for your award tickets so that you can start to think about what your redemption behavior says about how you value a mile.

— If you redeem 25,000 miles for a $500 domestic economy ticket, you redeemed your miles at 2 cents per mile (CPM)
— If you redeem 100,000 miles for a $4,000 international business class ticket, you would have gotten 4 CPM
— Neither of those redemptions is right or wrong, but they do tell us something about how you value miles.

If you are willing to accept a 2 CPM redemption, then that must be the upper bound on your personal mileage valuation. Simply put, if you valued your miles higher than that, you wouldn’t have redeemed that award and would have chosen to pay cash instead. But it could be lower than that. We just don’t know yet.

Now we need to think about establishing a lower bound. To do that, we’ll look at the money and time you invest to acquire miles. But first we have to get past the notion that you got the miles for free.

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How To Find Mistake Fares And Fly For Cheap

A few hundred dollars could have gotten you a flight back from Burma

There are many ways to get started in the miles and points game, as there are many ways to play.

These days the simplest and perhaps easiest way is to apply for one of the many credit cards offering insanely generous sign-up bonuses. Depending on the card, you can get enough miles for a free international trip as soon as you complete the minimum spend. It’s really crazy just how easy it is to earn lots and lots of miles in short order.

But it wasn’t always like this. And for much of the world — namely those outside the US where mega credit card bonuses are much less common — it still isn’t.

That’s why it’s worth talking about ways to fly for cheap, such as on mistake fares. These fares were once the primary entry for those getting into the miles and points game, and they still happen today. The allure is simple — you book a ticket, you fly on a plane, you earn some miles. Oh, and then you told your buddies about how you just flew to Fiji for $51. Or Iceland for $61. Or in my case, Madrid for $115.

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What’s A Status Run, And Should You Book One?

American-Meal-4

Yesterday I talked about how mileage runs were once the cornerstone of the miles-and-points game. Crazy people such as Ben would book these quick turnaround trips in which they would zig-zag their way across the country — and then immediately back — using the most circuitous routing possible solely to earn frequent flyer miles. A top-tier elite mileage runner such could earn as many as 16,000 award miles from a single trip.

As I explained yesterday, though, as frequent flyer programs have moved over to a revenue-based system (so you’re awarded miles based on the price of the ticket rather than the distance flown), “traditional” mileage runs as we know them are more or less dead.

And yet you still might see people frantically booking trips on their airlines of choice, especially in the fourth quarter of the year, simply to fly the airline back and forth — it looks like a mileage run, quacks like a mileage run…

But it’s a status run.

As it turns out, it can still make sense to book a trip just to pad your frequent flyer account. You just aren’t doing it for the award miles.

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Are Mileage Runs Still Possible?

A classic mileage run

We’re welcoming a lot of new readers from around the globe this week here at One Mile at a Time. To celebrate, we’re featuring a lot of content that covers the basics of what you need to know to get started in this hobby as well as a few articles, like this one, that provide some historical perspective about how the game as evolved over time. I hope this helps our new readers better understand how Ben got his start and our old-timers enjoy the walk down memory lane.

Once upon a time, the cornerstone of the miles-and-points world was mileage running. This is what the cool kids did — and in the case of our dear friend Ben, I do mean kid, since he started mileage running when he was 15.

Ben and other mileage runners would buy a ticket, board a plane, and then fly across the country solely for the purpose of obtaining frequent flyer miles.

These trips were quick turnarounds, by design — purists would argue that those on a true mileage run should never leave the airport, but instead should get off one plane, walk across the terminal to another gate, and board another flight headed back from whence they came.

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Using Google Flights To Find Cheap Fares

Use-Google-Flights-07

When it comes to planning mileage runs, or looking for great fare deals, the go-to tool for most of us has been the ITA Matrix. ITA is a powerful tool, and makes searching for specific inventory buckets or fare combinations more practical. However, ITA is also becoming slow and glitchy, and the interface isn’t exactly beginner-friendly.

Part of the reason for the slowness of ITA has to do with the new tool Google has developed for finding flight deals. Google Flights is designed to be more approachable to the general population, so I thought it might be helpful to talk about how to use Google Flights to save money on airfare.

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How Much Information Do You Volunteer On A Mistake Fare/Mileage Run?

Amex-Centurion

I’ve been involved in this hobby for a bit over a decade now, and there’s no denying that my approach to things is different now than when I was 15.

When I was mileage running as a teenager I’d quite proudly proclaim I was on a mileage run to anyone that would listen. Because I thought it was sort of cool (after all who needs sex, drugs, and alcohol when you have mileage runs?!).

Over the years I’ve mellowed out quite a bit, and generally don’t proactively offer up details of my travels to airline employees. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always be honest at immigration (most immigration officers nowadays are familiar with mileage runs, and don’t bat an eyelash when you give that as the reason for your quick international trip). But aside from that I don’t usually proactively offer up too much information. For example, if a flight attendant asks me how long I’m going to Beijing for:

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A Decade Later, I’m Turning Down “Free” Miles

TPADCA

I’ve been involved in this “hobby” for more than a decade now. And I feel just as passionately about it today as I did the day I get started, despite the fact that my approach to it has changed a lot.

I’m just booking some travel today, and as I do so I can’t help but smirk — because I know 15 year old me would’ve punched me in the face right now if he saw what I was doing.

Back in the day I was a hardcore mileage runner. I spent my weekends flying around the country aimlessly to earn miles.

For example, say I had the choice between the following two routings for the same price:

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My First Trip Of 2015: International First Class For $1,500

American-First-Class-1

I put “mileage run” in quotes because it’s not really a mileage run. Nowadays mileage running is for the most part dead, in my opinion. But there’s still plenty of merit to finding good fares on fun routings for maximizing miles, ideally with stops at fun places in the process.

Oddly while economy airfare has increased drastically over the past several years, we’ve seen more discounted premium cabin revenue tickets lately than I ever recall seeing. Why? Probably because airlines are actually doing everything in their power to maximize revenue, rather than opening up award space or letting seats fly empty.

So what’s the first “big” trip I booked for 2015?

I wrote several days ago about how British Airways has a global business class fare sale around the holidays, whereby they’re selling roundtrip business class tickets to many destination around the world for ~£1000. The catch is that the promotion is only for travel originating in London between December 21, 2014 and January 3, 2015.

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Is Detroit Alaska’s Most Elite Heavy Route?

Alaska-737

I might joke that Detroit is Alaska’s most elite heavy route… at least through the end of this month.

As I wrote about back in February, Alaska announced new service to Detroit which started on September 4th, and a double elite qualifying mile (EQM) promotion to go along with it through October 31st, 2014. Just a week later, Delta announced double miles & MQMs for Washington residents through the end of 2014. Tit for tat is great for consumers.

My PointsPros colleague, Alex, emailed me yesterday with something I found interesting. He had a same day mileage run Seattle > Detroit > Seattle to re-qualify for MVP Gold status, and the upgrade list for the outbound flight is nearly identical to the return. 21 names match, to be precise.

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American Business Class Dallas To Hong Kong

American-Business-Class-HKG-9

Last October, American Airlines announced a new nonstop daily flight between Dallas and Hong Kong, which launched this June. This route was incredibly exciting to me on many levels:

— Hong Kong is possibly my favorite city in the world
— It’s operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, which features American’s new first and business class products, making it the only route to Asia where that’s the case
— I love being an Executive Platinum with American since I get eight systemwide upgrades just for achieving the status, and there’s no better use of those than American’s longest route

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