“The glamour of the frequent-flier award has faded.” – Anonymous

Last year, I was 2,602 miles shy of Executive Platinum status on American Airlines so I did a mileage run. What’s a mileage run? Travel novice, listen up! A mileage run, as articulated by Wikipedia, is:

A paid airline trip designed solely for gaining maximum frequent flyer miles and/or points for no other reason than to gain the miles and/or points… Another common reason to take a mileage run is to (re-)qualify for an elite level. Suppose that in a particular frequent flyer program, 70,000 yearly miles are required for Platinum status. If a person calculates that his or her business travel will net them only 65,000 miles, they might be tempted to take a mileage run in order to cover the difference and re-qualify for elite status. Indeed, such requalification may very well net the person much more frequent flyer miles the following year.

Why does elite status matter? Executive Platinum is the Holy Grail for frequent flyers and provides perks and benefits that a true road-warrior can appreciate. For me personally, it was all about the eight (yes 8!) System-Wide Upgrades (VIP Upgrades) that can be used to move me from coach to business class on international flights. I have plenty of 500-mile upgrades in my account (31 to be precise), but these are valid on domestic flights only and I rarely get to use them.

What did my mileage run cost me last year? $850 – and if you divide $850 by 14 months (I was guaranteed Executive Platinum status through the end of Feb 2009), this comes to $60.71 per month. Was it worth it? You betcha! I was able to use 7 of the 8 VIP Upgrades and believe you me… there is nothing like flying business class to Europe or Asia.

Would I do it again? Um, I just did! This year I figured out in October (based on the rest of my work travel) that I was going to be shy about 5,000 miles in hitting elite status. So I immediately canceled an Award ticket that I had booked for our vacation to Spain (we went a couple of weeks ago) and purchased the equivalent. This cost about $1,200 and while Jeanine thought this seemed like a total waste of money, I argued again, that $1,200 divided by 14 months (since I’m now guaranteed Executive Platinum status from Jan 1, 2009 to Feb 28, 2010) equals $85.71 per month. I like to look at things as part of my monthly budget and that’s a small amount to pay for use of those 8 VIP Upgrades.

What “personal” expenses are you willing to incur in order to make your job a bit more comfortable?

Further Reading:
The Art of the Mileage Run
Mileage Run Turtorial

Photo credit: stock.xchng.