Survey Reveals New Twist on Mileage Runs: More Flyers Take Trips to ‘Nowhere’ Than Ever Before with Goal of Maintaining Elite Status

By Jesse Sokolow on 30 December 2015
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Did you do a mileage or mattress run this year? If so, you are not alone as over 70% of frequent travelers said they had done one or more mileage runs and over 20% said they had done one or more mattress runs in a recent survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler.

Mileage runs used to be for one of two purposes: to earn redeemable miles that could be used for a future trip or to accrue status miles or points to maintain or upgrade one’s elite status level on a preferred airline. Now that redeemable miles on major airlines are largely awarded based on the cost of the ticket rather than the number of miles flown, it’s no longer justified to buy a ticket with the lowest cost per mile and extract as many miles as possible from that trip.

For example, a $629 ticket from New York to Chicago will earn the same number of redeemable miles as a $629 ticket from New York to Singapore, notwithstanding the substantial difference in mileage.

What low-cost, high-mileage tickets are still good for, however, is to earn status miles or points because elite status is awarded not only based on actual miles flown but flyers with elite status receive anywhere from a 25% to 100% bonus, making an 8,200-mile trip earn 12,300 elite status miles for a Platinum-level member in Delta’s SkyMiles program.

A mattress run is the hotel analog of the mileage run, where a traveler stays at (or just checks into) a hotel for earning stays, nights, or points for status with the hotelier.

To find out just how many other travelers engage in this practice, Frequent Business Traveler collaborated with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, and ExpertFlyer, a leading air travel information tool. Between December 15 and December 24, 2015, we asked our readers if they did a mileage or mattress run for the purpose of maintaining status in the coming year.

The results of the survey showed that a majority of frequent flyers (70.6%) had completed a mileage run in 2015 at the time they took the survey, while only about a fourth of travelers (21.4%) had completed a mattress run. A further 14.7% planned to do a mileage run sometime in the last two weeks of the year, while 7.5% planned to complete a mattress run within that timeframe.

The number of those doing a mileage run increased by ten percentage points from last year, while the figure for those doing a mattress run fell slightly by 3.4 percentage points.

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