Lessons Learned for Mileage Runs

As I’ve posted on before, I spent a couple of weekends and a couple days doing “mileage runs,” flying with the sole purpose of earning miles. For my efforts, I managed to earn 94k EQM on AA in January.

AA EQM Jan 2012
The fruits of my labor...

I’ve never really done mileage runs before, much less 8 cross-country (or most of the country) trips within a month, so I though I’d share some of my thoughts and lessons learned from all this.

1) Stacked mileage runs/short turnaround times are pretty risky (obviously), and also extremely hard on the body.  I tried to plan at least two hour layovers when I was scheduling flights, but this proved not to be enough at times.  The first weekend where I spent the whole weekend flying, there was a big snowstorm in Chicago, and that delayed flights for about a day.  I was very fortunate in that only one of my flights was delayed past my next/return flight.  And since the return flight was the last plane out of SFO (the red eye back to ORD), they didn’t have equipment or crew to switch with, so they basically just delayed that flight until after we arrived from Chicago.

I did hear a few other stories where people had to cancel or reschedule some of their MRs because of this.  One thing I did learn (and that I’d heard previously) as that the AA Admiral Club agents are very helpful, and will do many things with your reservations that gate agents are either helpless or unwilling to do.  They really earn the affection label AAngels…

2) Not surprisingly, it’s a bit difficult on your body/psyche/sanity/orientation to take so many flights in a short period.  What I discovered was that I could do about two round trips each weekend and still not be sick of the whole deal, but the third trip between SFO and ORD is when I would start getting tired of it and just want to go home.  But overall, that amount of flying if fairly tolerable, if you can sleep on planes and make sure to get an amount of sleep approaching your normal amount.  I did have to do a few flights back-to-back, i.e. get off the plane and get back on within an hour, and those were rough, because it was essentially 8 straight hours of flying in domestic coach (though I met some people who did this for 12 straight hours by taking 3 back-to-back flights).

A couple of things that I brought along that I think helped a lot were a neck pillow and an inflatable lumbar support.  These help your posture a lot and make an uncomfortable airplane seat somewhat tolerable (for hours on end).

3) I implied this previously, but make sure you have lounge access.  I personally had the AMEX platinum card, and one of the benefits of the card is AA Admirals Club access (the link is to the business version, but both have lounge benefits).  It’s a nice place to relax, with comfortable seating, less noise, plenty of power plugs, and most importantly, showers (my fellow travelers probably appreciated me taking showers regularly too).  Although admittedly, SFO terminal 2 is already pretty nice, it’s still great to be able to go into the lounge.

View of inside of LAX AAdmirals Club
Looking out from LAX AA Admirals Club

The one drawback of the lounge is limited food options, so I’d recommend bringing in food that you want, or to eat before going in (I was told by AAdvantage Geek that the DFW AA Admirals Club is anal about not allowing outside food).  Also, if you want to people watch, you get a bit less variety in the lounge

4) Try and talk to other familiar face.  On a great deal like this one, believe it or not, you’re likely to find many other mileage runners doing this.  Not only that, but I had a veteran tell me that there were people she would run into over and over on different mileage run deals.  Even if you don’t live in the same place as those you might meet, it’s just good to get to know them and have more friends to visit in different places 🙂  Plus networking can take you all kinds of places.

5) If you’re doing many mileage runs in sets, especially with DEQM or TEQM promotions in play, try to strategize/plan so that you may have elite status on as many flights as possible.  I ended up doing most of my runs the last two weekends of January, so I only had status for maybe a fourth of my flights.  But if say, I’d been able to do a bunch the first weekend, and allow time for those flights and associated bonus miles to post, I could’ve done mileage runs two or three weeks later and had platinum status for all the flights then.  This actually can make this whole ordeal more lucrative, because as an AA platinum you earn 100% bonus RDM, which can be used for future trips.

That’s all I’ve got for now on this, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten to write some tidbit of knowledge that I picked up…but I’ll try to update this post if I remember anything else.

UPDATE: The promotional RDM have all posted (one of the DEQM promotions also included DRDM), and i ended up with about 75k total RDM earned for all those trips.  I spent about $2500 on airfare, and an estimated $3,000 total on these trips, including the cost of some upgrades and AA upgrade stickers, transit costs to from airport, food, etc.  So based on actual airfare, I ended up spending about 2.6 CPM per EQM and 3.6 CPM per RDM, and based on total cost, it was 3.1 CPM per EQM and 4.2 CPM per RDM