The World of Mileage Runs — SFO->ORD->EWR->ARN

I’ll let you all in on a dirty little secret that frequent travellers talk about amongst themselves, but not with people outside their circles, it’s the world of mileage runs.

What is a mileage run? This is what frequent travellers do to maintain their status for the next year; many will sit on a plane for an entire weekend to keep or boost their level.

For example, Traveller A (let’s call him Dave) calculated that by the end of the year he will only complete 40k miles and not be able to maintain his 50K status for 2014. Dave will then go to a site like Flyertalk and look for routes that will give maximum segments/miles for a low cost and often double the points (the secret code looks something like this: UA: YYZ-BKK CAD$843 ai RT (K fare; 2nt minimum; 4CPM); YOW-NRT). It’s possible to fly through various airports around the US cheaply and in one day to get the segments/points needed.

I’ve had coworkers fly to Kuwait, Japan, London, Alaska, Australia or from LA to SF via New York to maintain their status. Mileage runs are serious business and can is the difference between continuing comfortable travel and being a miserable week after week until you can regain your level again (which can take as long as 6-months to a year).

I recently did a milage run to Sweden because I spent 4-months not travelling this year and realized that I wouldn’t be able to make status by the end of the year. So, I decided to kill it in one run… and Sweden was calling.

How did I do it?

  • Know your budget (e.g. $800)
  • Go to
  • Choose your options (e.g. Star Alliance flights, less than $800, dates)
  • See what comes up (blue dots)
  • Go to the resulting airline website and book your flight

In the past month, I’ve found flights to Japan, Peru and Stockholm that cost less than flying from SF to Calgary.

Why did I do it?

I know… first world problems. But let me explain why I do this. I fly twice a week and sometimes my family flies to me; at 100K:

  • My family/friends get free upgrades on flights (up to 5 people) and lounge access.
  • My daughter automatically gets 50k status, so if she flys alone, she gets upgraded and sits in the front where there is 1 attendant per 9 people (instead of 2 attendants per 100+).
  • Priority lines give back hours of time. This keeps me mentally sane.
  • Access to unknown, cheap (and sometimes free) flights. We’ve monopolized this many many times. The cost of vacations is very affordable and being able to fly to different places fuels the content on this site.

Judge me if you will, but the next round of posts come from my mileage run to Sweden.

1 comment on “The World of Mileage Runs — SFO->ORD->EWR->ARNAdd yours →

  1. I should also note that milage points (called qualifying points) are different from the points you get from an airline credit card or from buying from “supported retailers.” The later can go towards free flights… but the former determines the experience on those flights. (However, on American there is no difference between the two).

    And, sometimes airlines will have “point sales” where you can buy your status. This seems like cheating to me and is definitely not as fun as flying somewhere new for a weekend!

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