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Quest's blog: Mileage run

By CNN's Richard Quest

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Richard with frequent flyer program expert Randy Petersen

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Biz Traveller
Richard Quest

(CNN) -- Posted: May 22, 2006
Forum: Read comments

This was the deal. All we had to do was fly three roundtrips from Dallas to any one of several cities in Texas.

Just three roundtrips and Bingo we would earn 30,000 bonus frequent flyer miles in American Airlines' AAdvantage program.

It was an offer simply too good to pass up, which is why last week, I spent one whole day shuttling between Dallas and Austin, Texas purely and simply in the pursuit of miles. It takes more than a miserable bout of bronchitis to keep me from earning that sort of treasure.

My tutor, guide and mentor in all matters of frequent flyers programs was Randy Petersen. Founder of Insideflyer and Flyertalk.com, the man is a human Google of information about how to earn the most miles in the quickest way.

Now, I don't want to give too much away because what we filmed and what we did will be used in CNN Business Traveller in July, but here are just a few observations.

First, we were not alone!!!! Yup, there were plenty of other cranks on these short-hop planes (AA super MD80 flights lasting about 32 minutes). Most had decided to earn the bonus run twice, which is the maximum 12 trips for 60,000.

One person had come down from Canada to do the run, another from the west coast. We even learnt that at the weekend half the plane had been full of people doing nothing more than shuttling back and forth in the glory of miles.

There were one or two very sticky moments. Our connections sometimes were terribly tight -- even "illegal". Once at Austin we found they'd given all the seats away.

Then, when we returned to Dallas to start the last roundtrip, we found our flight arrived at one side of the airport and we had just 20 minutes to get to the other, which -- even using the DFW SKYTRAIN -- is going-it somewhat. This was an "illegal" connection in terms of timings. We made it.

The search for the perfect mileage run takes many forms. Sometimes it's where an airline has a ridiculously low promotional fare that allows you to rack up miles at a cheap price. Other times it is where bonus miles are being offered on certain routes to stimulate demand (as in Dallas) and a huge number at that hence mileage runners have descended from all over to make the run.

But before you get all excited about this, you have to ask yourself, "Just how many miles am I going to get?" And, "Is it worth it?"

I got 3,000 for the actual flights, roughly another 1,000 for being gold on American and then the big 30,000 at the end. That's 34,000 miles for a total cost of around $300 -- that works out at around 0.8 cents a mile. By any definition this was a brilliant mileage run: a no-brainer.

Most mileage runners say that anything less than 3 cents per mile is a good mileage run if your sole purpose is to gain miles. Only thing about that means you have still got a good fare but if miles are the one and only reason you are taking the flight, well you might be well worth waiting and looking elsewhere (which is different if you have to make the trip anyway).

A bit of perspective: a business class ticket from London to NY works out at around 50 cents per mile!

During my day spent with Randy, I learnt so much. What to do with those measly miles you get from car rentals. Should I claim hotel points or put them onto a frequent flyer program? And how many programs should I follow?

Forgive me. I am still basking in having won so many miles so quickly and with such little effort, so I am going to reserve giving this information out until next month when our show will be all about frequent flyer miles and we will have a special page on the Web site to give advice and hear your thoughts on the program you follow.

I did take the opportunity though, while at American Airlines headquarters speaking to the chief marketing officer to ask what he thought of loons like us. Dan gave a wry smile, well aware of the dedicated, obsessional pursuit of miles which we follow and just said American welcomes all customers on board!

I am now flying from IAD/LHR via UA, which will also give me double miles, plus the journey across etc. All in all I have wracked up well over 50, 000 for this trip. Nice work if you can get it.

What's been your best mileage steal?

Off to Barcelona on Friday for the Sports awards. Flying LTN/BCN with EZ, so no miles! Thankfully, my weekly stash so far means I won't be inconsolable. Well, at least I wont burst into tears!

Please -- don't forget to write to me telling me of your best mileage run or best mileage deal -- who knows? You may see me sitting next to you trying to do the same thing!

Forum

From: Charisse Brown, Dallas, TX
Posted: June 12, 2006
Comment: My husband and I were in Spain for about two weeks at the end of May and of course watched a ton of CNN International. The Saturday before we left we saw your show and I fell in love. You had both of us laughing. Your sense of humor and how you make fun of yourself is the best thing to watch. Since coming back to the States we have told everyone about your program. Today, I was CNN International and I saw your blog. Being from Texas and now living in Dallas, I thought it was great that you flew American all day just to get the 30,000 miles. I actually had thought about doing that. Keep up the good work and get on in the States!

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