As we approach the end of the year, I started receiving questions about whether it may be worth going on mileage runs.
Mileage runs are trips taken solely for the purpose of earning frequent flier points to boost your balance above a specific threshold to achieve a certain elite status. Elite status are calculated based on the number of qualifying points that you earn in a calendar year. During the months of November and December, you will have a much better idea on how many more points you need to achieve the next elite status.
When going on a mileage run, generally the destination is not important because what’s important is the lowest cost per point, to earn as many points as possible. It is also good to have lots of connection flights, instead of one-way-flights, because we earn points based on distance travelled, rather than per dollar spent. Furthermore, having a lot of connection flights will help you achieve the “segments” requirement for elite status. Though certain airlines will be moving into a revenue requirement (e.g. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines).
Mileage runs are not for everyone, but it may be very worthwhile for others. If you are short a few points to achieve a certain elite status, you just need to decide whether the extra cost will be worth all the benefits of the higher elite status. It may actually be worthwhile.
In terms of the mileage run, some people never leave the airport. They fly from one place to another, then hop back on the plane for a return flight. If I were to do a mileage run, I would at least stay a few days at one of the locations to make a trip out of it. Mine as well have some relaxation time, even if it was just for a day or two.
I would note that you do not always have to wait until the end of the year to go on a mileage run. If you know ahead of time that you will probably not reach the elite status that you want, and you see amazing deals earlier in the year, it may be more worthwhile to go on the mileage run then, to bank your points ahead of time. If you only wait until November and December, it may be slim pickings for you.
Flyertalk has a forum that continually lists out some of the cheap flights available for a mileage run.