My Mileage Run Decision

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It’s that time of the year- elite status obsessed flyers begin to panic about qualifying for 2011 elite status. Since the elite qualifying year is January 1- December 31, some flyers pack in some serious flying in December to hit the next elite status level (usually at the 25,000, 50,000, 75,000, 100,000 and 125,000 mile levels).  You can also qualify for segments, which benefits short-haul flyers, but that has never been my cup of tea.

When I log into my Delta account I see:
Earned: 117, 066
To Next Milestone: 7,934

Delta is the only domestic airline that does elite qualifying rollover, which means that any miles you earn after an elite level will rollover to the next qualifying year. So if I stopped flying right now, I’d stay at Platinum status (75,000 miles) and rollover 42,066. While this sounded appealing originally, I decided that getting Diamond status had enough perks to warrant the end of year mileage run. Delta has a Choice Benefits program, so when you hit Platinum you get one choice (which I chose a $200 Delta voucher). When you hit Diamond, you get to choose two enhanced benefits, such as gifting Gold Medallion status to a friend, 25,000 Skymiles, $200 gift card, 6 System Wide Upgrades and 6 SkyClub passes. The great thing about qualifying for Diamond the first time, is that you get to choose 4 of these options, which is really generous in my opinion. In addition to these benefits you also get top priority for Medallion upgrades, free SkyClub access and enhanced customer service to name a few key benefits.

So, I decided to book a mileage run. I checked the Flyertalk mileage run deals board, which turned up a bunch of options. Many people also use the Fare Compare tool to check prices between popular cities. Once I realized I wanted to go to Europe for a quick weekend (Saturday night stay) I then ran to and started doing flexible weekend searches for JFK- European destinations. and Ireland came up the cheapest by far coming in at under $500 round trip. JFK-DUB-JFK only yields 6,358 miles. (To check out how many miles a route yields, I use the Great Circle Mapper tool), so I knew I had to get creative.  To put me over the top and then some, I decided to take advantage of the double MQM promo running out of Pittsburgh. So here is my run:
One way ticket $60 LaGuardia-Detroit-Pittsburgh, which is 1,000 miles x 2 = 2,000 MQMs (elite miles)
Then I bought a $496 Pittsburgh-Atlanta-JFK-Dublin-JFK. The first leg PIT-ATL-JFK-DUB 4,465 miles and I *may* qualify for the Double MQM promo, though technically it states that you need to fly a round trip (though in my experience, these bonuses post after one way flights, as per past 1 ways I flew to Pittsburgh from JFK).
Then Dublin-JFK the next day, giving me 26 hours in Dublin, 3,179 miles.

So at a very minimum, I’m going to get 9,644miles and if the double MQM promo works like I hope, then I could get up to 14,109, which would give me a decent start to next year’s qualification.  The way most people judge a good mileage run is by how many cents per mile you spend, which for me will be anywhere from 5.8 CPM if the double MQM promo doesn’t work as planned (not very good) or 3.9 CPM, which is decent. I’m actually spending a night in Dublin and just got a room at the Four Seasons for $112 due to this amazing promo, so its a mini-vacation. I also used the $200 voucher Delta gave me for qualifying for Platinum and some leftover vouchers form the year, so my actual cost outlay was only $150.  I’m actually going to enjoy this trip, so CPM isn’t so important to me (plus I will get $400 in vouchers and two other Choice Benefits for making Diamond).

Mileage running is not my expertise, but there is a site Elite Helper which will help you plan your year-end run.  For a rundown of elite airline benefits, check out:

US Airways

For a funny take on mileage running, check out this video.

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