Mileage and Mattress Run Poll: Fliers Go the Extra Miles to Maintain Airline Status While Hotel Guests Have It Much Easier

By Jesse Sokolow on 29 December 2016
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Did you do a mileage or mattress run this year? If you said yes for a mileage run, you are part of the majority of frequent travelers who have done so, but if you said yes to a mattress run, you will find yourself in the minority.

A recent survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler shows that over 60% of travelers said they had done one or more mileage runs, while around 20% said they have done a mattress run.

Mileage runs and mattress runs used primarily to accrue points or miles at as little cost as possible that could be used on a future trip. That such flights or stays helped build up status miles or points to maintain or upgrade one’s elite status level at a preferred airline or hotel was considered a bonus.

Now that award miles on the nation’s leading airlines are calculated based on the cost of the ticket rather than on the number of miles flown, it no longer makes sense to buy a ticket with the lowest cost per mile and extract as many miles as possible from that trip. Indeed, such trips – taken just for the sake of earning miles – make no sense at this point.

What low-cost, high-mileage tickets are still good for, however, is to earn status miles or points because elite status is awarded based on actual miles flown, as well as the bonus elite flyers typically receive based on their status level. A Delta SkyMiles member with Platinum status would earn 12,300 Medallion Qualification Miles for an 8,200-mile trip.

Meanwhile, since hotels still calculate points based on stays, nights, and points, a mattress run at a low-cost property can yield substantial benefits when planning, for example, a family vacation at a high-end resort.

To find out just how many travelers engage in this practice, Frequent Business Traveler collaborated with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, to address that very question. Between November 21 and December 15, 2016, we asked our readers whether 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 (63%) had completed at least one mileage run in 2016 by the time they took the survey, while only about a fourth of travelers (22%) had completed a mattress run. Additionally, a further 27% planned to do a mileage run sometime in the last two weeks of the year, while 11% planned to complete a mattress run within that timeframe.

The number of those doing a mileage run decreased by seven percentage points from last year, while the figure for those doing a mattress run rose slightly by one percentage point. The breakdown between those doing either mattress or mileage runs for status versus awards is statistically unchanged over the same period. Compared to two years ago, however, this year’s figures were virtually unchanged for both.

The difference in the number of travelers who do mileage runs versus mattress runs may reflect that airline status is more sought after or highly valued, or that it’s easier to reach and maintain status with a hotel group, without actually staying at one of its properties, thanks to the ability to gain status by holding certain credit and charge cards such as the Gold-level status with Hilton that comes with the American Express Platinum card.

When compared to airline status and as noted before, hotel status is handed out as if it were candy.  In addition, travelers can earn stays, nights or points for status and points for award nights at the least expensive properties within a chain or group, with prices as low as $40 or $50 per night. The award nights are then redeemable at more desirable locations.  This is a factor that simply doesn’t translate over to the air travel programs.

Click here to continue to Page 2Why Status on Airlines Matters

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