Pam asked me to put together some steps on mileage runs as she feels stuck in non elite status mode. Under the right conditions it certainly makes sense to fly for status. Here we go:
Most miles earned are revenue miles. Miles you get from dining out, credit card spend, car rentals etc. Elite Qualifying Miles are in Butt in Seat and they are what determine your status for upgrades, bonus miles, extra consideration during irregular operations, priority boarding, elite security lines, the list goes on and on. You must fly to get EQM except in some instances a large amount of annual credit card spend can earn you a few EQM.
What is a good mileage run? First of all the pure mileage run is done solely for the collection of miles. In and out as fast as you can collecting the most miles for the least cost per dollar. I try and set the bar at 3 to 3.5 cents per EQM. Why did I come to that figure? I didn’t. The old timers in the game did and I followed their lead. It makes sense. Let’s take United Airlines for example. If I could fly 100,000 miles at 3 cents per EQM my investment in cash would be $3000.00 Starting from scratch I would earn 1 revenue per mile flown in the 1st 25K, 1.25 miles per mile flown on the next 25K as a Premier member and 2 revenue miles for the last 50K as a Premier Exec member. 25K + 31.25K +100K revenue miles =`156,250 revenue miles. Those revenue miles are worth at least 1.5 cents each when redeeming for award travel. The value of the revenue miles earned is then at least $1,950 , call it $2 Grand.
And as a 1K member I’m given 6 Systemwide upgrades for reaching 100,000 EQM. never done I give mine away to military, friends and sometimes get to use them myself (LAX to SYD is bearable in biz, not in coach). Others have told me they sell for about $300 to $350 on the black market. This is not allowed and not encouraged.
So the revenue miles are worth $2000 and the SWU’s worth $1800 conservatively for a value of $3800 or more than I spent to earn them. Add to that the bump vouchers and customer service certs you’ll get flying 100,000 miles and you can see, it pays to fly. And remember once you have 1K status you earn 2 revenue miles for every mile flown so the next year your revenue miles earned will be 200,000.
That’s the math.
Now the how to:
You have to work to figure them out. If you fly MIA to SEA non stop it is 2724 miles. At $220 round trip your EQM cost would be $220 divided by 5448 (use the links list for Great Circle Mapper) miles round trip or 4 cents per mile. In reality, nobody flies non stop MIA to SEA on a mileage run. They use FLL as fares are cheaper and they zig zag across the USA. You must know your hubs and understand routing rules. As a United flier the route for me would be FLL-IAD-SFO-LAX-SEA. Ben at the One Mile at a Time blog lives in Tampa and goes TPA-IAD-JFK to LAX or SFO-SEA so he can fly the premium service on United if the fares are equal. I’m staying away from JFK with the main runway down for 4 months.
No matter who you fly, you want to hop the hubs if the mileage makes sense. From Savannah it makes more sense for me when going west to use IAD instead of Chicago and I rarely connect in Denver, another UA hub, as it just doesn’t add enough miles. Of course if flights may be oversold then I’ll connect anywhere.
How do I find potential fares: Again Work it. I use the Farecompare/Flyertalk link on the links list to locate possible fares. (remember those mileages are non stop).
I use itasoftware.com to hunt up possible routings. Example I plug in the FROM field FLL:: ua iad ua sfo ua lax ua and then in the TO: Field I plug in SEA: and reverse the routing coming back. Or I just plug in:
FLL:: ua ua ua ua ua and then in the TO field SEA:: ua ua ua ua ua
The routing language is a learning experience in itself but that is the basics. Less segments, put in less ua’s. Flying ua and somebody else it would be ua+ I could spend hours on the different variations.
And routing rules is another whole can of worms. I actually took a class about 5 years ago on reading routing rules. You can find them on the farecompare/flyertalk link for each fare you are considering. The routing rules will tell you which cities you can use to go from point A to point B. Again, it takes time and work.
I hope that primer helped a few of you get started. Practice Practice Practice and lets use the comments to help one another out with this project.
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