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Finding last-minute domestic flights for elite status qualification

Nov. 07, 2022
8 min read
Delta Connection jets in Nashville
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As the sun begins to set in 2022, the time is running out to qualify for elite status. Even the best of us make mistakes calculating elite mileage accruals, so if you mind yourself a few hundred dollars or a couple of flight segments off of your targeted status, you can employ the final, last-resort strategy: a mileage run.

Today, we'll be looking at the cheapest domestic mileage run options from major U.S. cities on some airlines with popular elite status programs. We'll give you the price and mileage accruals on each of these itineraries, which allow you to be home the same day you depart. We're also filtering out basic economy fares as those generally do not earn as much as standard economy tickets.

Before we give in, there are two quick things to mention.

Two quick notes

Last-minute elite status strategies

TPG is committed to helping you earn the status you want, ideally at a fraction of the "usual" price. We've recently published last-minute elite status guides for the major U.S. airlines. These guides are full of lesser-known ways to earn status quickly through travel on partner airlines, credit card spend and other offers. So, if you're thinking about taking a vacation before the end of the year and want to earn elite status or are interested in other ways besides a mileage run to earn status, refer to these links:

Where's American Airlines?

You'll notice that we haven't listed any American Airlines itineraries because American members have an extra two months to earn status. When the airline launched Loyalty Points earlier this year, American modified its elite qualifying year. Rather than using a January 1 to December 31 earning window, American uses a March 1 to February 28 earning window.

That means AAdvantage members have until Feb. 28, 2023, to earn status before your Loyalty Points balance resets to zero.

New York City

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Nashville International Airport (BNA).
  • Return: BNA to JFK.
  • MQD: 138.
  • MQM: 1,532.
  • Price: $177.20.
GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) via Dulles International Airport (IAD).
  • Return: IAH to LGA.
  • PQP: 140.
  • PQF: 3.
  • Price: $186.20.
  • Notes: The IAD to IAH leg is operated by a Boeing 767-300ER on this particular itinerary.

Washington, D.C.

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: IAD to LGA.
  • Return: LGA to IAD.
  • PQP: 125.
  • PQF: 2.
  • Price: $156.60.
  • Notes: Black Friday.

Denver

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Denver International Airport (DEN) to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
  • Return: AUS to DEN.
  • PQP: 112.
  • PQF: 2.
  • Price: $142.60.

Los Angeles

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Las Vegas's Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
  • Return: LAS to LAX.
  • PQP: 112.
  • PQF: 2.
  • Price: $143.60.
  • Notes: Fairly good mid-week availability through the end of the year.
GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: LAX to LAS.
  • Return: LAS to LAX.
  • MQD: 112.
  • MQM: 1,000.
  • Price: $143.60.
  • Notes: Total itinerary is less than four hours.
GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: LAX to San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • Return: SFO to LAX.
  • EQM: 1,000.
  • EQS: 2.
  • Price: $131.59.

San Francisco

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: SFO to DEN.
  • Return: DEN to SFO.
  • PQP: 139.
  • PQF: 2.
  • Price: $177.20.
  • Notes: Widespread availability in early December.
GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: SFO to LAX.
  • Return: LAX to SFO.
  • EQM: 1,000.
  • EQS: 2.
  • Price: $131.59.
GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to Kauai's Lihue Airport (LIH).
  • Return: LIH to SJC.
  • EQM: 4,924.
  • EQS: 2.
  • Price: $291.40.
  • Notes: Departure is from nearby SJC.

Orlando

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Ottawa International Airport (YOW) via Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL).
  • Return: YOW to MCO via Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ).
  • PQP: 264.
  • PQF: 4.
  • Price: $229.73.
  • Notes: Air Canada basic fare credited to United MileagePlus.

Atlanta

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
  • Return: BWI to ATL.
  • MQD: 120.
  • MQM: 1,152.
  • Price: $151.60.
  • Notes: Widespread availability with multiple daily departures.

Salt Lake City

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) to LAX.
  • Return: LAX to SLC.
  • MQD: 147.
  • MQM: 1,180.
  • Price: $181.60.

Seattle

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS
  • Outbound: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to San Diego International Airport (SAN).
  • Return: SAN to SEA.
  • EQM: 2,102.
  • EQS: 2.
  • Price: $191.60.

Using Google Flights

Of course, if you don’t live in these cities — or are trying to snag elite status with another airline — the above flights won’t help. However, a fantastic functionality in Google Flights allows you to quickly identify the cheapest options from your home airport: the Explore destinations tool. Here’s how it works:

1. Go to Google Flights.
2. Scroll down and select "Explore Destinations."

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS

3. Enter your home airport.
4. Click on the dates box, select Specific dates, then set your departure and return dates to your desired travel date.

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GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS

5. Click "Done."
6. Review the map, and use the slider to adjust the maximum price. You can also filter your preferred airline under the "Airlines" tab.

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS

Once you select a city, review the flight results, and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into. Same-day turns can be risky — especially with connections — and most cheap flights will book into basic economy unless you override that when you check out. Nevertheless, it may be worth it if it can help you reach that next tier of elite status for one day’s worth of travel.

For additional details on just how valuable elite status can be, check out our elite status guides for the following airlines:

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.

Featured image by ROBERT ALEXANDER/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023