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Thoughts on Mileage Runs

As we approach the end of the year, there was a time when people were calculating how many miles they needed to qualify for a specific elite status level with frequent flyer programs. However, a lot has changed since my last post on mileage runs. Namely the new minimum spending requirement with many airlines.

Just a quick definition of a “mileage run”, which is a or several trips taken for the main purpose of accumulating miles to boost your balance to qualify for elite status with an airline frequent flyer program. There are generally 3 requirements to attain elite status.

Air Canada Altitude Program

Let’s use Air Canada’s Altitude program as the example.

air-canada-altitude-chart

From the chart above, let’s say you want to qualify for the first level, you will need to have 25,000 Attitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) or 25 Attitude Qualifying Segments (AQS). These are pretty straight-forward, because even if you fly with Star Alliances member airlines, you can continue to earn AQM and AQS to help you reach either of the two requirements.

However, the $3,000 Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD) requirement is earned through the amount of base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges (Y, YQ and YR) paid on:

  • Flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge. This includes codeshare flights marketed by another airline and operated by Air Canada.
  • Codeshare flights marketed by Air Canada and operated by Star Alliance partner airlines ticketed on Air Canada ticket stock (ticket numbers beginning with “014”).
  • Eligible Flight Pass purchases and eUpgrade Add-ons based on the monetary value of the purchase.

Thoughts on Spend Requirements

I actually don’t mind this requirement, because in theory, frequent flyer programs can ensure that they collected enough money from you to keep up additional costs associated with an elite status. In practice however, who knows if additional profits are actually passed on the customers. But for the purposes of this post, let’s say it does.

So keep in mind that we call these loyalty programs. The question is, what does loyalty mean? Someone who spends a certain amount and get rewarded with miles and points? Or someone who knows how to leverage the program to accumulate lots of miles and points.

What to Be Careful With

Fellow BoardingArea bloggers Mommy Points (post) and Andy’s Travel Blog (post) each wrote a post about not getting carried away with mileage runs. To summarize, the way I see it is that you should not spend money that you do not have and put yourself in a difficult financial situation to fund mileage runs. I would definitely never recommend someone to loan money just to pay to qualify for elite status. You’re better of spending the time and energy towards making more money and try again in the future instead.

However, if you have the disposable income, you really enjoy it (treating it like a hobby), and you find value in elite status, then maybe it’s worth it.

Recommendation

You don’t have to take this suggestion, but when I see people going on mileage runs, I think, ideally, it’s better to have planned the trip earlier in the year, if you knew that you were going to be short miles at the end of the year, so that you can plan an actual trip with it. Even if it’s something like, going Friday after work, go visit a family or friend for the weekend and come back in time for work on Monday. Basically, make a trip out of it, so that it’s not just hopping on and off the plane. Unless you really don’t mind that.

Resources for Canadians

Where to find mileage run does as a Canadian?

  • FlyerTalk is probably the first place to look. They have a specific section in their forum for deals.  This is where you will also find lots of mistake fares to take advantage of.

Unfortunately, you may not see to many trips departing out of Canada. So it works better for Canadians who are already abroad anyway, and can more easily book those flights. For Canadian specific, I would look at:

  • I really like Ydeals. You can subscribe to your specific local airport to see what deals come up.
  • The Canadian section of Secret Flying is pretty good too.

Just remember, when it comes to deals that go well for mileage runs, that pricing may not be around for very long, so you will need to be ready to book it at a moment’s notice.

Final Thoughts

Just keep in mind that cheap flights will help you probably help you more with AQM or AQS, but it may take a little more for AQD. Due to this AQD rule, the strategy for mileage runs may be to qualify for lower elite statuses than before.

Just be sure that you can afford whatever you are paying for and have fun with it!

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

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