What is a Mileage Run?

People often ask me why I fly around so much. When I explain that I go on mileage runs, I get some blank stares. Hopefully this post will give you a good idea of what a mileage run is, and why I go on them.


What is a mileage run?

A mileage run is a trip that you take to earn enough miles for the next level of elite status on an airline. These trips can be a quick hop from DEN-BOS-SFO-DEN, or can be as complex as SEA-DEN-HNL-LAX-SFO-SYD-MEL-SYD-SFO-LAX-HNL-SFO-ORD-MUC-CGN-MUC-FRA-SFO-HNL-SFO-SEA.

The "complex" routing that I posted above is the routing for an actual mileage run, currently underway by a member of the FlyerTalk Forums. He was 47,000 miles short of requalifying for 1K, so this $2,977 trip will get him up to 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). You can read about more of his journey here. The 47,000 mile pre-christmas mileage run (report).

So far, none of my mileage runs have been that intense! My longest trip was to Sydney, Australia in May. United had one of their TWARES (Twitter Fares), advertising 40% off a round-trip ticket to Sydney or Melbourne. Since I was only a Premier (2P) at the time, the trip to Sydney would get over the 50,000 EQM requirement, and I would become a Premier Executive (1P). The new status would let me access Star Alliance lounges world-wide, get double-redeemable miles (RDMs), higher priority for United's Unlimited Domestic Upgrade (UDU) system, and also let me talk to the US call centers, rather than wasting time talking with "Sam" in India.

As far as the routing and cost for my trip, it was pretty simple. On Friday, May 28th, I flew from Denver to San Francisco, and then had a seven-hour layover in the Red Carpet Club. Luckily the time passed quickly, as it can get pretty boring sitting at the airport. With three hours till departure, I heade to the international terminal, and had an amazing dinner at Tomkazu. Fourteen hours later, I was in Sydney, with eight hours until my return flight to San Francisco. Unfortunately, I was chosen for a secondary screening at Customs, mostly due to my short stay. On the entry form, it asked how many weeks or days you would be there. Since I put "0", they were a little suspicious of my motives. After getting my bag searched, and playing 20 questions, I was on my way to Circular Quay, so I could meet FlyerTalk member, iluv2fly.


After a great breakfast at the CQ Cafe, it was time to head back to the airport. Unfortunately, my upgrade to Business Class had not cleared, so I was confined to a window seat in Economy Plus. While I like Economy Plus on domestic flights, 14 hours in the almost up-right position is not my idea of fun! Before heading back to SFO, I got to meet the famous United employee in Sydney, Annie! She is probably the nicest UA employee I have ever met. More about Annie can be found here. Annie is a rock star (aka United in Australia). Unfortunately, I did not get the upgrade, so I got to spend another 14 hours in Economy Plus.

Upon returning to the United States, Customs was a breeze. Using Global Entry, I was able to take care of my re-entry with a kiosk, skipping the secondary inspection, and 20 questions. Ten minutes later, I was in the SFO Red Carpet Club, waiting for my flight back to Denver. Luckily the upgrade for SFO-DEN had cleared, which felt amazing, especially after two 14 hour flights in Economy Plus!

On-board our Boeing 757-200 to Denver, there were nine open seats in First, making the atmosphere much more personal. The purser was very attentive, and two hours later, I was home.

Overall, this was a very successful trip! I had passed 50,000 EQMs about 200 miles into SYD-SFO, so I was looking forward to being a Premier Executive. For my first international mileage run, I had a great time. Besides my secondary search at Customs, everybody I met in Sydney was very friendly. I even went back in October, but more on that at a later time..