Get more frequent flier miles and elite status with end of year “Mileage Runs”

by Efficient Traveler on November 29, 2010

I was talking to a colleague who is considered a frequent flier in my book: anyone who has attained the first level of elite status. If you travel enough to make the first level, you fly more than most! He is on the verge of attaining his second level with United Airlines, which makes him Star Alliance Gold. “What benefit is Gold besides better availability of upgrades?” he asked. I explained that Gold level gives you better clout with the international Star Alliance airlines such as Lufthansa.

There are 3 levels of elite on United: Premier, Executive Premier, and 1K. Premier, the first level, gives you access to the extra legroom seats and upgrades, along with a 25% bonus on miles. Executive Premier, available after 50,000 miles gives you higher priority of these with an increase to 100% miles bonus.  But here’s where it gets interesting. Check out the difference in Star Alliance Silver (first level) versus Gold (second level).:


Star Alliance Gold Benefits

  • Priority Reservations Waitlisting
  • Priority Airport Standby
  • Priority Airport Check-in
  • Priority Baggage Handling
  • Extra Baggage Allowance
  • Priority Boarding
  • Airport Lounge Access

Star Alliance Silver Benefits

  • Priority Reservations Waitlisting
  • Priority Airport Standby

As you can see, it PAYS to be Gold Star Alliance. I’d do whatever it takes to get Gold, I told my colleague. With the end of the year coming up, however, he was 5000 miles short of Gold. The solution, I told him, was a “Mileage Run.” A Mileage Run is taking a trip only for the sake of getting the miles to attain the next level of frequent flier status. This usually involves a trip across the coast with a quick return back; no hotel or rental car needed. Just stay in the airport and sleep on the plane. These runs are worth their weight in the cost of a ticket (which you can usually get for a reasonable cost) if it gets you from the paltry Silver benefits to Gold benefits. Figure this: if it costs $400 per year for Lounge access, then you should definitely pay $400 for a cross-country ticket. If you can visit a friend or write it off as a business trip by visiting a client for lunch, it’s a no-brainer to me. Plus, you get the benefits of the miles you flew to use on reward travel!

The Efficient Traveler always keeps track of his miles throughout the year; if only 1 trip is needed to get to the next elite level, he takes it!

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