Yesterday I had the pleasure to talk with Bryan (or BryanIAH for those of you following on FlyerTalk), the founder of mileagerunning.com. Bryan, a grad student, started the blog a few weeks ago because while there are lots of travel blogs out there none of them focus on the insane art of mileage runs.
Yes, I called it an art. This just isn’t for some people … but for those interested, prepare to learn about a way to accumulate a massive amount of miles that you can redeem for pennies on the dollar.
Before we go too far in, let’s get a baseline here and agree on what a mileage run is: “A mileage run is an airline trip designed, or the creative alteration of a trip to extend earning capacity, taken solely to gain maximum frequent flyer miles, points, or elite status.” When we hear about mileage runs, the first thing usually to come to mind are the crazy people flying in December to meet or requalify for their elite status … Bryan takes the opposite approach and he does mileage runs to accumulate massive amounts of miles that he can use to redeem for award tickets (and the elite qualification is a definite bonus he’ll take).
While the site is brand new (first post March 29th), Bryan has been a member of FlyerTalk for two years amassing over 2200 posts, and some stories of amazing mileage runs. His biggest included 23 flights and 42,228 miles in the air … dizzying. You can read all about it in the FlyerTalk thread.
His goal is to explain mileage runs, so that the average traveler can not only have an understanding of how to mileage run, but how to find them on your own. Don’t want to find them on your own, he’ll offer up his time to search and even book for you.
The first guide he published was on finding International mileage run opportunity with United. Keeping in mind that routing rules differ for each airline, and for each city pair this is just one example, but can serve as a great way to learn about the possibilities out there. Bryan is going to further publish guides about once a week, in addition to content on mileage runs, and the different examples available to us.
While understanding how mileage runs work can be a huge help to find a great way to rack up miles, they also provide you with insight into ways to help maximize your award booking. One of my favorite examples is his first post where he talks about going from Los Angeles to Shanghai. Flying United or American he could travel non-stop and be there in under 14 hours. Alternatively for a little more he could fly Turkish through Istanbul, and amass almost twice as many miles doing it! On the award side of things, remember that United and Turkish are both of Star Alliance. You could use those United miles to book tickets on Turkish, include a stop-over in Istanbul (free additional vacation spot!), and continue on to Shanghai. This is just one example, but knowing your partners definitely helps here.
Bryan’s recommendation to get started in mileage running is to do the following:
- Compile Airports in Regions – Not countries, or continents, but rather a region that you would consider your home or how far you’d be willing to drive for a mileage run. Let’s use Boston as an example: Boston (BOS), Providence (PVD), Manchester NH (MHT), Hartford CT (BDL). These will serve as your home base, your places that you’re willing to start looking from.
- Take a look at a mileage run forum to spot any trends. FlyerTalk’s mileage run forum is his first stop. Look for patterns (perhaps Miami comes up every month, or Washington DC)
- Go to ITA Software and search from your home region to a destination region for a month-long search. We need to be flexible. Flights may only be available on Tuesday’s for a given month … but if it yields 2x the miles for less than we’d normally pay it may be worth it.
- Read his blog (ok, I added that).
He provides lots of screenshots and step-by-step instructions explaining how he constructs fares, and how to read the information presented. Learning about mileage runs is not an overnight exercise. I’ve been on a few of my own, including a “vacation run” to Copenhagen last year, and my trip to Brussels last month (where I spent 4 nights in each location), but am looking forward to Bryan teaching me a bit.
Last year Bryan flew 151,000 miles (actual miles that his butt was in an airplane seat). Of that, 101,000 were on paid tickets, and the other 50,000 were on award tickets. Bryan also mentioned that mileage running over a weekend can often save him money. He’s going to fly anyway to accumulate the miles, and if he isn’t at home spending money, he’s likely at 30,000 feet eating a meal served by the airline. Sleep isn’t the best, but for the benefits he’ll take a restless night every once in a while … I mean, he is a grad student!
Give mileagerunning.com a look, hopefully you can learn a thing or two too.
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day ExpertFlyer is donating One Year of Premium service ($100 value) for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (along with your First Name, Last Initial, and Airport Code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.