New Film Shines Light on Mileage Addiction

Think you're a bona fide frequent flyer mile junkie?

As a reality check, watch "Frequent Flyer," a 20-minute documentary film produced by Gabriel Leigh as a graduate project at U.C. Berkeley's journalism school.

The film, viewable online, profiles a handful of certifiable mileage addicts, including Leigh himself, all of whom boast frequent flyer account earnings in the millions and pride themselves on their mileage-earning prowess and elite credentials.

Leigh, for example, takes us along with him on a mileage run—a trip taken solely to earn miles and bolster one's elite status—including eight flights, spanning three countries, over six days. In the end, factoring in elite bonuses, a route bonus, and compensation for a delayed flight, he racked up 47,418 miles for the trip. For the subjects of the film, that's what "living the life" is all about.

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But you shouldn't watch "Frequent Flyer" as a mileage how-to—it's more about inspiration than it is about specific tips. As Randy Petersen, publisher of InsideFlyer, notes, "for the really dedicated, there are real rewards to be had." Among the rewards for Petersen: "the freedom of seeing the world."

And it's about the mindset of multi-million milers. Why would anyone devote so much time and energy to playing the frequent flyer game?

The noted British travel writer, Pico Iyer, points to what he calls the "soft spot in our psychology" and swooningly notes that "something quickens in us as soon as we get on a plane." He admits that, for him, "travel is a kind of drug" and theorizes "that's part of why frequent flyer programs are so successful."

Iyer is not the first to allude to links between travel, mileage programs, and chemical intoxication. It's implicit in the term "mileage junkie," a name proudly claimed by the men—and they are all males—featured in this film.

The million-milers of "Frequent Flyer" are true mileage addicts. If their stories resonate with you, you might just be a frequent flyer junkie yourself.

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