It should come as no surprise that I love the sport of Mileage Running. The best part of Mileage Running is that it’s fun almost entirely throughout. There’s a rush you get when you find the perfect flight or series of flights you want to book. Once you book a leg of a trip or a whole trip you then have to try to piece together the rest of your trip.
Last year when Qatar Airways published some insane business class fares from Vietnam I jumped on and bought two of them. Qatar ended up honoring the fares which meant I had to get to Vietnam. I had never been to Vietnam before so it was a ton of fun planning out how I’d get there and what I’d do during my extremely short layover.
Planning A Mileage Run
I think most of my friends and family think that I throw a dart at a map and book a flight to wherever the dart lands. That couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to planning a mileage run. I spent a ton of time planning out a potential mileage run. I visit Google Maps several times a day just to see what prices are like and if anything interesting has become available since I last checked.
When I’m looking for Mileage Run opportunities I’m always looking to maximize value. While it’s fantastic that I can now buy a $300 round trip flight to Europe on WOW Air, that trip doesn’t provide any value to me. Instead, if I’m looking for a cheap international flight in economy I only look to buy flights with American (AA) flight numbers.
If I find a low-priced flight with AA flight numbers (even if operated by another carrier) chances are that I can book it as a Special Fare. By booking the trip as a Special Fare I earn Elite Qualifying Dollars and Miles based on the distance traveled opposed to price paid. Searching for these fares take a lot of work, but can be worth it in the end.
The other thing I’m constantly looking for is discount premium cabin tickets on OneWorld carriers. If I’m going down this path I specifically look to avoid AA flight numbers. When flying in a premium cabin on a OneWorld carrier you earn EQD and EQM based on the distance flown. If you buy the same flight with AA flight numbers you typically earn EQD based on the price of the ticket.
Booking A Mileage Run
Once I find a fare that I like I then look to maximize it when booking. For example, if flying from New York to Hong Kong you may be able to book NYC-LAX-HKG to add a few extra miles for a similar price. Likewise, if flying from Chicago to London, I’d ideally like to book ORD-LAX-LHR opposed to simply ORD-LHR. The name of the game here is to add as many miles to each trip as possible.
This is where booking the trip get’s tricky. Often you can find fares on Google Flights or the ITA Matrix that simply aren’t bookable with the airline. It’s a pain, but eventually you can usually find something worthwhile to book.
Once you find something worthwhile you have to be careful how you book it. Specifically, you need to make sure you know what fare basis you’re booking. Different fare codes earn Qualifying Miles and Dollars at different rates.
For example, when booking British Airways Economy Class the “V” fare code earns 10% EQD per mile flown while the “Q” fare code only earns 5%. That’s a 50% mistake if you end up booking the wrong fare code even though you’ll ultimately be flying in the same cabin.
My Least Favorite Part Of Mileage Running
To that point we’re ready to discuss my least favorite part of mileage running. That is, the period following a flight as you wait for your miles to post. Ultimately, you aren’t sure if you did the right thing until the miles post.
The reason I bring this up is because I’m currently waiting on miles to post. Last weekend I flew Cathay Pacific Premium Economy from Chicago to Hong Kong and back. I ended up flying ORD-HKG-LAX in Cathay Premium Economy, or about 15,000 miles total. When I booked I made sure to book the “E” fare code which earns EQD and EQM as follows:
Since I booked an “E” fare basis I should earn $3,000 EQD and 22,500 EQM from the single trip. However, if for some reason I didn’t book the correct fare I could potentially earn $0 EQD and 0 EQM. That’s why I hate this part of a mileage running. You’re never 100% sure what you did is right until the miles post.
This is especially tricky with American Airlines Special Fares. I’ve tried several ways to verify if my purchase triggers a special fare or not in the past and can never seem to get a straight answer. Usually I don’t know if I actually purchased the right fare until my miles post to my account.
I really have begun to develop a love for mileage running. There is something truly fun about finding a cheap flight with a short stay and taking it. This past weekend I flew to and from Hong Kong in just four days. During that trip I had two night in Hong Kong to explore before it was time to head home. It was honestly an incredibly fun adventure.
What’s not fun is sitting here waiting for my Cathay Pacific flights to post to my AAdvantage account. I’m 99.9% sure that I’ll earn the EQD and EQM that I expect, but I’m never sure until it actually shows up in my account. What’s frustrating is that Cathay is known to only post once a week. From my understanding, Cathay posts partner miles on the Monday following travel. That means I have at least a few more days until I know for sure. Either way, the trip was amazing, but I’d be disappointed if I didn’t earn the mileage I expected to.