More Mileage Running and Status Matches

25 Oct

Talking about miles and travel hacking cracking

Back in February I introduced you to the concept of mileage runs. Those insane trips to somewhere and back for the sole purpose of accruing miles.

I have traveled a lot this year but besides my introductory post, I have only done one other pure mileage run during 2012. During the summer, Frontier Airlines offered a status match to Southwest’s frequent flyers in Colorado. Frontier is based in Denver and they do it to entice customers to switch carries without losing their “top privileges.” American Airlines did it this year as well, matching top United flyers.

Frontier’s matching was targeted for Colorado residents but I proceeded to (conveniently) ignore that fact and emailed them something along these lines:

“Hello, I am based in KC and even though I’m AA Platinum, there are many times when Frontier has great fares. If you were to match me to Summit (Frontier’s highest status) I would gladly pick your airline over the competition.”

Short, sweet and actually really honest. They wrote back a couple of days later telling me I was being granted top status for 60 days and had to flight 6-segments within that period to keep my Summit status until February 2014.

I ended up flying to Phoenix for a previously booked trip and decided to check on Frontier for the return. Luckily, they had a very good sale going on (they often do) and I managed to grab a PHX-DEN and a DEN-MCI, both for around $105 total.

That left me with about a month to complete my status challenge. With no domestic trips in the agenda at the time, I had to do a last minute mileage run (or in this case, segment-run) and booked MCI-DEN, DEN-OKC, OKC-DEN, DEN-MCI. I actually booked them as four separate one-way tickets just to be safe on the segment situation. The language wasn’t really clear on the challenge letter.

The day came and I flew back-to-back-to-back-to-back over 16 hours. I even managed to get some exercise in while at it. Two 200-meter sprints across the Denver airport.

Securing Summit status until Feb 2014 cost me about $240. I expect this to pay dividends over 2013 as I schedule flights FLL (great fares to Miami), MCO, SFO and MSY (now a new direct flight from MCI). In fact, carrying my Summit card has already worked tremendously. At MDW in Chicago, showing my card pre-security allowed me to skip a monstrous line just a couple of weeks ago. (Even though I was not flying Frontier at the time….ahem….* wink*)

More matching stories

About six months ago, [one European Star Alliance airline] offered to status match flyers in other alliances. However, this offer was only open to people living in [certain Asian countries]. Being a smart, envelope-pusher individual, I contacted a colleague living in one of those certain Asian countries and he agreed to let me use his home address in my registration. 2-3 emails later and I was matched to Star Alliance Gold. Awesome. (Two weeks later I went online and updated my profile’s address so I could receive the actual card.)

Status matches are not that uncommon. Aegean Airlines and Turkish Airlines (also Star Alliance members) usually have them year-round but I decided to go with the [one European Star Alliance airline] because their offer was temporary and extremely limited.

Why do it? Well, having top status with Star Alliance allows me an added freedom when it comes to picking who to fly with. Now I can truly look for the cheapest fares knowing I don’t HAVE to fly American Airlines (or other One World member) or Frontier. It’s a great thing to have…but unfortunately, also hard to maintain year after year.

As part of my match to top status with this [one European Star Alliance airline], I have to fly 50,000 miles (with any Star Alliance airlines) before May 2013. Fifty thousand! The same amount I’ll also have to fly during all of 2013 with One World alliance airlines in order to keep my American Airlines Platinum status. On paper, it sounds like a lot…and it is!

No, honestly, it’s relatively manageable when you run the numbers. Thanks to Copa Airlines (Panama) and Avianca/Taca (Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica) joining the Star Alliance (and because I already qualified for PLT with American Airlines), I’ve already racked up some airtime and stand at close to 15,000 miles.

Status matches are not exclusive to airlines. Some hotel chains offer some sort of challenge (stay 6 nights over the next 3 months)  while others may even just give it to you straight up!

You really have to like flying

Airplanes and airports are absolutely fascinating to me. I’m sure you realized that by now. Every arrival to a new airport is exciting, every take-off, every landing (knock on wood so they’re always the same number!), even just the process of booking the ticket itself is exciting!

A few weeks ago, doing a common random 2am ITA Fare Matrix search, I ran across an excellent Kansas City to Las Vegas fare. Round trip, everything included, for $160.34 on United. The merger with Continental earlier this year was probably no big deal for the casual traveler. To be honest, it wasn’t to me either until I started flying United again and realized more hubs = more potential miles!

Through some internet magic, I managed to dig and book MCI-CLE-SFO-LAS-SFO-CLE-MCI for that exact same price. I could have easily flown MCI-IAH-LAS for a more direct routing but I don’t want a direct route! I want to maximized my mileage per dollar spent (Cents per Mile, CPM). I also greatly improve my chances of running into overbooked flights that may be paying for people to  take a later flight  in exchange for a three-digit voucher. With no checked bags and an open schedule, it’s a no-brainer.

This “optimized” routing will earn me ~6500 miles. A very nice amount considering for only 10,000 miles I can fly one-way from/to Caracas to/from other South American cities, including Lima, San Jose and Bogota. These tickets are usually over $500 when purchased one-way. Nonsense, I know.

Those cities are also major hubs for LAN and Avianca/Taca, in case I need to to reposition for future flights (see? It’s all connected!).

Live blogging the experience

This madness starts Thursday (November 1st, 2012). Departing KC at 11:30am CT, eventually arriving in Las Vegas before 11pm PT. After 17 hours on the Strip in the city, I’ll hop on 3 more planes and if all goes as planned, land back in KC before 10am Saturday. Mileage runs are great when you can pull them over a Friday-Saturday but sometimes you gotta burn a weekday in there.

I’ll be live blogging on the way there and back. With so many connections and airports I’m sure there will be plenty of stories to share on here and on my twitter account.

Stay tuned!

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