I recently completed a "mileage run" to increase the likelihood of retaining my MVP status on Alaska Airlines. I got to wondering how beneficial such trips have become with the current revenue based earning schemes on the major airlines. In the past, finding a great fare to a moderately distant destination made more sense as miles were based on distance traveled rather than the price of the ticket. Alaska is one of the few (if not only of the US) carriers to retain a mileage based system.
Alaska granted me a status match from my UA Silver that I gained from the RewardsPlus program. I decided I would try to earn the necessary miles/segments needed to retain the MVP (Most Valuable Passenger) status beyond the end of 2016. To do so I needed
- 20,000 miles flown solely on Alaska OR
- 25,000 miles flown on Alaska and elite-qualifying partners (such as Delta and American) OR
- 30 segments flown on Alaska and elite-qualifying partners
Since AS does not fly into my home airport, the first option is essentially useless to me. Activity from earlier in the year put me at about 11,500 miles and 14 segments all on American and Delta, or just about halfway to retaining MVP status for another year. While searching for inexpensive RT flights out of CMH, I found a fare on AA to DFW returning to CMH the same day for $136. Most of the time, a good fare on that route runs about $225, so I decided to book. Strangely, the routing required stops in Charlotte and Nashville on the way to Dallas with a nonstop flight back to Columbus. Normally, I'd want nonstop both ways, but since this was just a day in the air, the extra segments weren't a problem. In fact, having two extra flights might come in handy as it will make it more likely that I'll reach 30 segments.
So, by 10:00am I was at the airport waiting for my flight to CLT. Not being at a major hub, many of the flights out of CMH are on regional carriers. Between CMH and CLT and from CLT to BNA, the flights were on PSA under the American Eagle umbrella. Both legs were on CRJ-900, which is my favorite of the regional planes. Taking a tip from clebert, I used my MVP status to pick preferred seats and then 24 hours before flight time, moved up to Main Cabin Extra at no charge. I don't mind paying for seats if I get something extra (like "free" drinks on Delta Comfort+) but AA MCE only offers extra space which, to me, is not worth the price.
Still, extra space is nice and the "bulkhead" row at the front of the economy section on the CR9 is my favorite place. No wall to contend with, so bags can go under the seat ahead (the last row in first class). The seats are so far away it's difficult to reach your carry-on without unbuckling the seatbelt. A day before the flights, I moved up to this row on both CR9 flights, window seats both times but on opposite side of the aisle for variety.
The connection in BNA was tight, just 40 minutes and although we arrived as scheduled, by the time I deplaned, boarding for the flight to DFW was just minutes away. From BNA to DFW the plane was a B739 B738, so I had chosen a seat one row back from the bulkhead. There wasn't quite as much space, but it was sufficient. The most interesting part of this flight came as we crossed the Mississippi. I was looking out the window at the river and highways far below, and was able to pick out the interchange where I-55 meets I-555 in Arkansas. I identified the point where I turned off of I-555 and onto US 61 a couple weeks earlier on my most recent county collecting trip (Highway 61 Revisited). Well, I thought it was cool.
After a 2 hour layover in DFW, I returned home on an MD-80, again one row back from the bulkhead. Bulkhead rows are fine, but I prefer being able to stow at least one carry-on under the seat in front of me (on this mileage run, I only had one carry-on).
Being in NC, TN, and TX all in the same day, iahflyr would never speak to me again if I didn't eat BBQ for either lunch or dinner. I choose to go with Carolina BBQ and a local beer for lunch in CLT, which freed me up to eat Tex-Mex (complete with a margarita) at DFW for dinner.
All in all, it was a good day. By 9:30pm I was back at my home airport. I'd probably do something like this again were the price cheap enough, though it may take a day or so before my stiff neck goes away (all that staring out the windows ). My current travel plans will put me at 32 flight segments by July (hmm, I wonder if I can reach MVP Gold by getting to 60 segments ). I think I'd want to include an overnight on any future mileage runs. Twelve hours of flying only to end up back home just isn't something I look forward to, though this trip did accomplish its purpose.
I haven't done the exact calculations, but I flew about 2000 miles. AA didn't get much revenue (taking out the taxes and fees the fare was $91.16 - less than 5 cents per mile ). I'm sure somebody's FC made up for my bargain one. When all's said and done, I should earn close to 3800 miles (minimum 500 miles per segment., plus 50% bonus for MVP status). Not bad for what I paid.
So, now I'm curious. What do Insiders think of mileage runs now that most airlines award miles based on ticket price instead of distance? Does it still make sense? Would you do (or have you done) something similar if you knew you needed just a few more miles or segments to reach the next elite level?
Message was edited by: bejacob to correct aircraft type from BNA to DFW.