Poll Finds Majority of Frequent Flyers Do Mileage Runs to Maintain Status

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Mileage runs can lead to faraway places.

Mileage runs can lead to faraway places.

To avoid holiday traffic and the end-of-year travel scramble, FlyerTalk member bobbysfca said he did a mileage run in June, going on a round-trip journey from New York to Anchorage, via Houston solely for the miles.  In a separate trip, he expanded his round-trip New York-San Francisco business voyage by making a total of five connections on an otherwise non-stop route.

FlyerTalk member runningshoes made reference to a recent mattress run he completed during which he “booked a cash + points stay at a local hotel and stopped on the way home from work to check in and headed home for the night.”  While an outsider may view such an endeavor as financially unwise, he isn’t considering that a hotel is a frequent traveler’s second home, and the benefits that come with status can be invaluable in ensuring a comfortable visit.

Another poster, darthbimmer, said that, unlike running shoes, he “didn’t take a flight or book a room solely for points/status in 2013 but did make some choices guided by the pursuit of points and status.”  Spectre17 echoed that sentiment, saying he “worked hotel stays to my advantage but didn’t sleep somewhere solely for the nights.”

Many frequent travelers will invest time rather than money to rack up miles by routing their trips through otherwise unnecessary connections.  FlyerTalk member MCLC didn’t go on any mileage runs, but he did “book some trips with a connection instead of direct” to accrue additional miles toward his 100,000 mile benchmark, which, he noted, he “would have [otherwise] just barely missed”.

BOTTOM LINE

Mileage runs appear to have grown in popularity over the past year. Last year, only 37.8% of respondents to the poll said that they had done a mileage run and 9.6% said they had done a mattress run.  A subset of these groups, 4.8%, said they had done both.

The travel market has become far more competitive and hotels and airlines realize that they have a better chance of keeping a customer who has elite status within a loyalty program than one who doesn’t, in part because status is also a good (but not perfect) measure of a customer’s value to the airline or hotel.  Someone who flies 100,000 miles or stays at a hotel 50 nights a year is more likely to be a high-value customer than someone who flies 5,000 miles or stays at a hotel five nights a year.

Some airlines have come to realize that the points and status don’t completely represent the value of the customer and are implementing yet another milestone that members need to meet, namely how much they spend with the hotel or airline.  Since mileage runs are typically done using very inexpensive fares, they will do little to meet the spend requirement imposed by an airline, so it will be interesting to see if this change impacts mileage runs (mattress runs aren’t impacted by this) when the new metric goes into full force at two U.S. airlines, Delta and United.

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