Anatomy of a Mileage Run: Why Our Editor Flew 8,300 Miles in 25 Hours on a Trip to Nowhere

By Jonathan Spira on 21 December 2015
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“And I thought I did a lot of flying,” said Nancy, the lead flight attendant on my first flight, after asking if Boston was my final destination. I showed her my itinerary and her eyes opened wide. I was off on a mileage run that would take me from New York to Boston to Atlanta, to Lima, back to Atlanta, and back to my starting point, New York City – all in roughly 24 hours.

My plan was to get the 12,000 Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs that I needed to maintain Platinum Medallion status with Delta Air Lines in the shortest amount of time and for the least amount of money possible. Because of my job here at FBT, I fly on a large variety of airlines in the course of a year – typically in excess of 125,000 miles per year – so I am unable to concentrate my flying on any one airline or even one alliance. I had roughly 63,000 MQMs and Platinum would require 75,000.


My requirements for the trip were simple: I wanted to be able to complete it in approximately 24 hours, not stay at a hotel, and get in excess of 12,000 MQMs. I didn’t care about the miles I would earn for travel. Given that Delta bases those miles on the cost of the ticket whatever I would get would be gravy.

I wanted the cost to be as low as possible while still traveling in Delta One on the long-haul flights and domestic first on the shorter hops. And I had a plan: Pay With Miles. In addition to being able to use Delta SkyMiles for award tickets, SkyMiles members who have one of several American Express-issued Delta credit cards can also use the Pay With Miles option, which allows one to use miles as a cash substitute. Using Pay With Miles means you get all of your MQMs, even if you are only paying $10 in cash. While it’s generally a far better deal just to get an award ticket, Pay With Miles – when used with a sale fare – can be almost as good a deal and, when seeking MQMs, it’s the best option.

In mid November, I noticed a sale on tickets to Lima, Peru and priced a round-trip ticket out at $1,600.50 and purchased it for $100.50 on my American Express Delta Reserve card. This used 150,000 SkyMiles, a reasonable cost for the trip. As a comparison, I priced out the ticket closer to my date of travel and it would have cost $5,111.50.

My itinerary was as follows:
Dec. 15 New York-Boston 11:06-12:04
Dec. 15 Boston-Atlanta 13:27-16:09
Dec. 15 Atlanta-Lima, Peru 17:45-00:25
Dec. 16 Lima-Atlanta 01:55-08:30
Dec. 16 Atlanta-New York 12:55-14:53

Total number of miles flown: 8,271.

I was unable to get the same price with an earlier return flight to New York so I left the itinerary as is and planned to use Same-Day Confirmed, a feature that allows the traveler to change to a confirmed seat on an earlier flight once it’s within 24 hours of departure. Delta waives the fee for SDC for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold SkyMiles members.

My favorite seat, 1A, was available on all five flights. The roster of equipment and seating was:
– JFK-BOS Bombardier CRJ-900 Recliners in 1-2 config.
– BOS-ATL Boeing 757 Lie-flats in 2-2 config.
– ATL-LIM/LIM ATL Boeing 767-400 Lie-flats in 1-2-1 config.
– ATL-JFK McDonnell Douglas MD-88 Recliners in 2-2 config.

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