Category Archives: Mileage Run

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

Mileage Running Update and Four Points Sheraton SFO review

So I’m on another weekend of mileage runs, with 3 planned trips between ORD and SFO this weekend.  No fancy or different routings like last week.  Overall the experience hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but it’s been disorienting at times.  By that after a couple of trip, I usually don’t know what time it is, or what time zone or city I’m in (so basically, nothing out of the ordinary :-P).  I also had earned Gold status for my exploits already, as mentioned before, and after Friday, I now have Platinum status on AA

Anyway, for this weekend’s runs, I’d decided to book a hotel last night, the Four Points Sheraton at SFO.  I decided it would be nice to get a night’s sleep in a normal bed, before spending the next two nights on red eye flights from SFO-ORD.   Plus this hotel was only 4,000 Starpoints (normally $99) for the night.

Because I arrived early enough to ORD, I was actually able to standby on an earlier flight from ORD-SFO, and I managed to get into SFO early.  So I figured, this is great!  I’ll grab a bite at the airport (figuring there is nothing around the hotel), catch the shuttle, and then get some work/blogging done before getting a nice night of sleep in (I had a 610am flight).  Seemed like a great plan for the night/weekend right?

Deviation from plan

Upon arriving at SFO, I ran into a friend that I had met doing mileage runs last week.  Actually, he has a pretty interesting story…he isn’t really that much into the whole frequent flyer scene, but he had a friend that is really into it, and his friend convince him to go on all of these mileage runs.  My friend says he plans to blog about his experience, so perhaps I’ll write more about him another day.

Anyway, my friend was going to meet a friend of a friend for dinner in the city, and asked if I wanted to go.  I really wanted to just go to the hotel, get a few things done, and then turn in…but after a bit of debating, I decided to just go out with him and meet his friends (who were also very cool).  My thinking was that one of the benefits of going through this whole ordeal joyful experience was to meet people, and now I was given an opportunity to make some new friends in the great city of San Francisco.  So I overcame the logical and sensible path (and/or the getting “old” side of me), and caught a cab with him up to the Mission district of SF.

We enjoyed a number of beers and great food at The Monk’s Kettle.  I am very glad I went, although this led to me being sleep-deprived, as well as another mini “adventure.”

Hotel: Four Points by Sheraton SFO

The restaurant took a while and all, so I didn’t get to my hotel room until about 1am.  Meaning that if I were to stick to a safe schedule, I’d have to wake up at 4am to take a shower and try to catch the hotel’s 435am shuttle to the airport.  Even with this tight schedule, I decided to get a few pictures and do a mini-review of this hotel.  There wasn’t much to this hotel, so I took a picture of the main area and the bathroom.

Overall, the room was pretty basic.  It was clean and functional, and pretty close to the airport.  The hotel says that the rooms are being renovated, and this particular room (at least the bathroom) looked like it had been recently renovated.  I think the nearest restaurants to this hotel were about .5-1 mile away, in San Bruno…so it’s not a great place to stay if you’re looking for walkable things to go to.  The hotel is also fairly far from any public transit options (BART or Caltrain).  If you want to be in a more transit accessible hotel, as far as SFO SPG properties go, the Westin Milbrae is probably a better choice.  It’s a nicer hotel and is about a 10 minutes walk from the Milbrae BART and Caltrain station, but it is also a bit further from the city (it’s on the opposite side of the airport as the Four Points).  Anyway, after taking a few minutes to take these pictures, I set my phone alarm for 4am (it was past 1am at this point), and rolled into bed…

The Next Morning…

I woke up once or twice, to find that it was well before 4am.  So I just kept going back to sleep.  However, the last time I woke up, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard my alarm yet, because it seemed like it had been well over 3 hours.

I rollved over, looked at the clock, and it read 505am.  Uh oh!  And my flight was at 610am.  So I quickly got out of bed, took a shower, called the front desk for a cab, brushed my teeth, and packed up my stuff (which was basically my computer and phone that had been charging).  I got to the cab probably around 515am, and took off for the airport.  I explained the situation to the cab driver, and said that I didn’t really expect to make the flight at this point.  He assured me that we had more than enough time, since it was only a 15 minute ride to the airport (if that!).  So I thought, well, maybe I’ll be ok, since it’s a Saturday morning, and who the hell flies on a Saturday 6am flight? (Bonus points if you answered mileage runners).

Anyway, I got to the airport at 530am, security took about 5 minutes or so (unlike my slow TSA ID checking experience at DCA, where checking the ID took about 5 minutes…), and was at the gate before 540am!  Wow!  I even had time to stop by and fill up my water bottle.  I ended sleeping another couple hours on the flight (I had the whole row to myself on this flight!), and then woke up and used the Internet for a bit.  And here I am now, at the AAdmirals Club at ORD, awaiting my next flight…

One weekend of MRs…and I’m an Internet celebrity! :)

Ok, maybe not an Internet celebrity, but during my mileage runs escapades this past weekend, I met Bobby, the author of the AAdvantage Geek blog over at BoardingArea, and he has mentioned me in a post today.

This was also the reason I didn’t get to post much over the weekend, as tired as I was from flying all weekend.  I am planning to share my experiences and lessons learned in another post, hopefully soon.  Overall, while it wasn’t the greatest experience ever, I did enjoy meeting people, experiencing multiple days of mileage running, and generally found the whole thing not to be as bad as I thought it would be.

The short version, I flew to and from ORD at the start and end of the weekend, and took 3 round trips between ORD and SFO within 48 hours (once routing through DFW!)…So basically, I “went” to California more times in one weekend than most people probably go in 2 years or more 🙂  All of this in the name of earning AA EXP (I did manage to get Gold over the weekend, and if the sweep of bonus DEQM happens soon, I should have AA Plat)…

To gain AA status or not?

I’ve been debating whether or not to do some mileage runs as I linked to in my previous post about the AAdvantage DEQM promotion.  While it’s being considered one of the greatest opportunities to get into mileage running in a while (being able to gain enough AA miles for top tier status for under $2000), I’m not sure if there is much point to it for me.  While you can take a lot of what lucky calls “fun” trips with the AA system-wide upgrades to re-qualify in the future, I’m just not very certain I would fly AA much out of here.

I’ve generally flown UA/*A in the past, and now, being in the DC metro area, I have a United hub (IAD) and a US Airways “focus city” (DCA) at my disposal.  However, I suppose there would be some value to the mileage running experience and having AA status at my disposal if I ever need it.  So I’ll need to decide in the next couple days if I want to spend a weekend or two in January flying back and forth across the country purely for miles and status.

The cost is a bit of an issue for me, but given the low cost of generating miles under this promotion, I actually think the miles you’re able to earn will effectively pay for the travel expenses.