My First Mileage Run (And Status Run!)

I don’t really fly enough to earn airline elite status, so I’ve avoided mileage runs and elite status runs up until this point in my life. The only airline I’d care to earn elite status on would be Alaska Airlines: my hometown is near Alaska’s home in Seattle, I’ve been living in San Francisco (a major Alaska hub) for the last two years), and before moving to San Francisco, I lived in Los Angeles (another Alaska hub!).

What would I gain from having Alaska elite status? Here’s a short list:

  • two free checked bags on Alaska flights instead of the one I currently get with the Alaska credit card
  • first class upgrades on paid economy tickets
  • increased miles earning on paid tickets (which actually makes mileage running more realistic after earning status!)
  • elite status will last until YE 2019, which means I wouldn’t have to do another elite-qualification run until early 2020
  • I’ll be able to match my Alaska elite status to get elite status on other airlines

Although the above reasons are quite nice, chasing them didn’t make any sense for me until I found a phenomenal mileage run deal:

I found this flight deal for RTs between San Diego and Washington, D.C. with a quick stop in Seattle for $160. It earns 6,700 Alaska MileagePlan miles, which I value at about $127, and more importantly, it earns bucketloads of Alaska elite qualifying miles for a minimal cash outlay. In fact, I was able to use Alaska credit, Barclays Arrival+ points and Citi ThankYou points to cover more than 90% of the cost of my mileage run tickets, and I also bought some of the tickets through discount OTAs that I found through Momondo in order to save another 12% on some of the segments.

Notionally, I spent $960 in order to earn at least 37,745 Alaska MileagePlan miles, which I value at $717, however, my total cash outlay was actually under $100, as I used points that I had stockpiled to buy my tickets, so in a sense, I just traded some Citi/Barclays points for Alaska points and I’ll also be gaining Alaska elite status, which I will then be able to match to JetBlue Mosaic (and perhaps other elite statuses–we’ll see).

What’s the downside to my crazy mileage run plan? First, I’ll have to spend quite a bit of time sitting on Alaska 737s and A320s. Also, I’ll have to find hotels for the one or two turnarounds when my return flight doesn’t leave the next day. On the quick turnarounds, I land at IAD around 11pm and have a return flight leaving the next morning, so I’ll have to sleep in the airport. On the plus side, I’ll get to spend quite a bit of time in the Seattle and San Francisco Centurion lounges for lunch as well as the Turkish Airlines lounge at IAD for breakfast.

This mileage run will definitely earn me Alaska MVP status, and might just qualify me for MVP Gold, and it also puts me in a good position to qualify for MVP Gold 75k, so if I find another good candidate fare for a mileage run later in the summer or fall, I could fly do that and qualify for MVP Gold 75k, which would likely earn me a lot of free first-class upgrades over the next year or two.

Should you try a mileage or status run? If you’re like me and you don’t fly more than 60,000 miles a year, it’s probably not worth it unless you have a lot more travel planned for the following year on a particular airline. For me, these runs aren’t worth it unless I find a particularly cheap Alaska fare. I’m probably going to put in a lot of time and effort on this to earn MVP Gold 75k by mid-2018, and then I’ll soak up all the benefits until 2020 comes around, and then I’ll reassess and decide if that crazy mileage run was worth it.

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