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How to Pick a Flight for Your Year-End Mileage Run


Dear Tim,

I have a question that I cannot find the answer to, and if anybody has it, you do. I, like many others this time of year, want to fly somewhere to qualify for the next tier of elite status. Is there ANY site out there that will tell you the furthest you can fly per dollar spent? In other words, I’d like to put in my airline (Delta or SkyTeam) and find the least expensive mile/dollar ratio to fly anywhere worldwide. If this does not exist, another way to go about it might be to search a region. Are there any sites that allow a large radius search? In other words, NYC to Paris [with] a 500-mile radius (that would pick up much of Europe), or simply a search from LAX to South America in the month of December? HELP!

—Trevor R.

Dear Trevor,

For the sake of readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a [[Mileage Runs | mileage run]], it’s simply a flight taken for the express purpose of earning enough miles to qualify for [[Elite Programs | elite status]] in an airline’s frequent flyer program, or, as in Trevor’s case, to elevate one’s status from a lower elite tier to a higher one. There’s typically an upsurge in interest in mileage runs during December because elite status is based on activity during the calendar year, which is coming to a close.

There is indeed a website that does exactly what a mile runner would like it to do. What calls its FlyerTalk Fares widget displays flights from your chosen departure airport, showing the flight length in miles, the fare, and the cents-per-mile cost of the flight. Oh, and the destination is shown as well, although in mileage runs that’s usually irrelevant.

I would suggest using the FareCompare widget in conjunction with some tip-sharing. That can range from exchanging suggestions around the office water cooler to participating in online discussion groups. As an example of the latter, the FlyerTalk forums include a Mileage Run Deals area, dedicated specifically to sharing mileage run intelligence. (Hint: Among the many abbreviations and acronyms is ‘EQM’ for elite-qualifying miles.)

Neither of the above is guaranteed to pinpoint the very best flights for mileage runs. But if you do both, and pay strict attention to the cost-per-flown-mile, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the perks of elite status.

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