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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 on 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 find 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.

In this guide, we'll be looking at the cheapest North American 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 dive in, there are two quick things to mention.

2 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 spending 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 Jan. 1-Dec. 31 earning window, American uses a March 1-Feb. 28 earning window.

That means AAdvantage members have until Feb. 28, 2023, to earn status before your Loyalty Points balance resets to zero. Don't worry, we'll run a post for American elite members as the elite year comes to a close in early 2023.

Last-minute flights to keep elite status

Here's a few example flights for Alaska, Delta and United elite members. Note that the fares mentioned here are strictly examples and the prices were valid at the time of writing. So if you can't find or use the flights listed here, use them as examples for finding your own year-end mileage runs. We'll run through strategies for finding your own flights at the end of this article.

New York

  • Outbound: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Nashville International Airport (BNA).
  • Return: BNA to JFK.
  • Medallion qualification dollars: 138.
  • Medallion qualification miles: 1,532.
  • Price: $177.20.
  • Outbound: LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) via Dulles International Airport (IAD).
  • Return: IAH to LGA.
  • Premier qualifying points: 140.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Three.
  • Price: $186.20.
  • Notes: The IAD-to-IAH leg is operated by a Boeing 767-300ER on this particular itinerary.


  • Outbound: IAD to LGA.
  • Return: LGA to IAD.
  • Premier qualifying points: 125.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Two.
  • Price: $156.60.
  • Notes: Black Friday.


  • Outbound: Denver International Airport (DEN) to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).
  • Return: AUS to DEN.
  • Premier qualifying points: 112.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Two.
  • Price: $142.60.

Los Angeles

  • Outbound: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Las Vegas' Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).
  • Return: LAS to LAX.
  • Premier qualifying points: 112.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Two.
  • Price: $143.60.
  • Notes: Fairly good midweek availability through the end of the year.
  • Outbound: LAX to LAS.
  • Return: LAS to LAX.
  • Medallion qualification dollars: 112.
  • Medallion qualification miles: 1,000.
  • Price: $143.60.
  • Notes: Total itinerary is less than four hours.
  • Outbound: LAX to San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • Return: SFO to LAX.
  • Elite qualifying miles: 1,000.
  • Elite qualifying segments: Two.
  • Price: $131.59.

San Francisco

  • Outbound: SFO to DEN.
  • Return: DEN to SFO.
  • Premier qualifying points: 139.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Two.
  • Price: $177.20.
  • Notes: Widespread availability in early December.
  • Outbound: SFO to LAX.
  • Return: LAX to SFO.
  • Elite qualifying miles: 1,000.
  • Elite qualifying segments: Two.
  • Price: $131.59.
  • Outbound: Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to Lihue Airport (LIH).
  • Return: LIH to SJC.
  • Elite qualifying miles: 4,924.
  • Elite qualifying segments: Two.
  • Price: $291.40.
  • Notes: Departure is from nearby SJC.


  • 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).
  • Premier qualifying points: 264.
  • Premier qualifying flights: Four.
  • Price: $229.73.
  • Notes: Air Canada basic fare credited to United MileagePlus.


  • Outbound: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
  • Return: BWI to ATL.
  • Medallion qualification dollars: 120.
  • Medallion qualification miles: 1,152.
  • Price: $151.60.
  • Notes: Widespread availability with multiple daily departures.

Salt Lake City

  • Outbound: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) to LAX.
  • Return: LAX to SLC.
  • Medallion qualification dollars: 147.
  • Medallion qualification miles: 1,180.
  • Price: $181.60.


  • Outbound: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to San Diego International Airport (SAN).
  • Return: SAN to SEA.
  • Elite qualifying miles: 2,102.
  • Elite qualifying segments: Two.
  • Price: $191.60.

Using Google Flights to find your own 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:

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


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.


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.


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 airline programs:

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.

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.