Frequent Flyers: The Art of Mileage Running

Mileage running: Is it an art? Is it smart? Is it an obsession?

I think it’s all three.

If you’re already a mileage runner, you could win 15,000 miles painlessly just by entering our  FareCompare Map Your Miles and Fly with Status contest. We’re also donating miles for every entry received. Our goal is to give 100,000 miles to families who need them.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, mileage runners are frequent flyers who take what I like to call “flights to nowhere” simply to rack up thousands of miles so they can keep their elite status – the highest levels of airline mileage programs (what used to be called frequent flyer miles clubs).

The artistry comes in trying to fly the farthest possible distance for the least amount of money, or, how to fly short hops over and over again. Remember, mileage runners don’t really care where they go; it’s all about the miles.

In fact, that’s why I created a special tool for our Where-to-Go Getaway Map – a calculator for PPM or price per mile, which is very handy for any traveler who’s looking to save money. Or you could enter the

Is Mileage Running a Smart Thing to Do?

Is mileage running smart? Let’s have an actual mileage runner like Karen Morrison explain.

“I am usually upgraded,” she says. “I pay for coach but I fly first class.” That’s just one of many elite perks; others include several guaranteed upgrades a year, free checked-bags, free access to VIP lounges, dedicated airline “help” lines and much more. And most airline elites get these things.”

Mileage Running as Obsession

But is mileage running an obsession? It could be considered that. After all, Ms. Morrison once flew from the U.S. to Singapore, then turned right around and came back – just to collect all those miles.

However, occasionally a mileage runner will make the most of his jaunt, like Gary from Salt Lake City did recently (he didn’t want his last name used, since he’s worried some of his co-workers may find his mileage running activities a bit “odd”). He’s a Delta Air Lines Diamond Medallion member who tries to make his runs fun whenever possible.

Like his recent jaunt from St. Louis to Dublin which cost him $570 roundtrip. Unlike your typical mileage runner, he actually stayed there a couple of days, did a little sightseeing and “had some wonderful dinners at some great pubs, along with some Guinness, of course.”

Now, that’s the way to do it.

If you’re new to mileage running, the rules for the various airline miles programs can be tricky and you might want some help; let me recommend three great sites for navigating airline miles programs: They are FlyerTalk, Upgrade: TravelBetter, and WebFlyer. Check them out.

So is mileage running for you? Let us know; we’d love to see Facebook comments from any of you veteran mileage runners out there.

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Published: November 18, 2010