Airline mileage mavens, take note. The days of making mileage runs to boost your frequent flier membership levels may be coming to an end.
A recent article in the Seattle Times says that United and Delta airlines are cracking down on a practice known as “mileage running”.
Basically, this practice entails purchasing a low-cost, long-distance ticket and just flying in order to make sure you stay eligible for elite flying status on an airline. For example, if you’re 15,000 miles short of keeping your Super Elite Titanium level, you might purchase the lowest-cost ticket to fly from Chicago to London to Frankfurt to Rome, and back again, all in a four day whirlwind trip.
It’s not that surprising airlines are cracking down on this. What is surprising is that people are willing to take such drastic steps, such as spending an entire weekend flying to Europe or South America and back just to gain these ticket points. I have to wonder whether it’s all worth the effort and discomfort.
I find that the elite airline mileage programs tend to be problematic anyway. I’ve had trouble booking tickets to the place I want to go and at the time I want them. A lot of blackouts and restrictions apply, not just for the free tickets, but also on what tickets you can use toward getting the free tickets. For me, getting rewards from my credit card has proven to be a lot more worthwhile. I find fewer restrictions in every area of the transaction. There are some credit cards that are specifically geared toward accruing travel points, and I use those whenever possible.
Plus, consider how valuable your time is. Many people don’t have the time to take a long haul trip over a weekend like that. It may be worthwhile to spring for a business class ticket once in a while rather than spending 36 hours traveling just to get upgraded. You have to calculate whether the benefit is greater than the cost, both concrete and abstract.