Gadling’s guide to mileage running

It’s 11:30 on a Friday night in DC. I just got in from Reagen and am sitting at the Fox and Hounds in Dupont Circle with my friends Nicky T and Dave with a 4$ gin and tonic in my left hand and a cell phone blazing in my right. In twelve hours I’ll wake up, head back to DCA and get on a series of flights passing through Detroit and finishing in San Francisco. In twenty, I’ll be having dinner with Allan at a Mexican Cantina in the Old Mission just north of SFO. A full twenty-four hours from now I’ll be on a redeye flight returning from California into Detroit in time for a Sunday morning nap and my ultimate frisbee game at 3.

Sound ridiculous to you? To many people it does.

What’s more confounding is that I’ve found and purchased this cheap fare solely for the purpose of earning the frequent flyer miles usable for later flights and goodies. The fact that my flights go through DC and San Fran are irrelevant to me — I just happen to have a few friends in those places.

Now, before you pull off the arms of your office chair and call Greenpeace in disgust, hear me out — earning the right amount of frequent flyer miles on certain airlines has its perks. And if you can find the right itinerary that earns you the highest number of miles against the lowest cost for your ticket, it actually can be worth taking the flight for the miles.

So strap into your cubicle walls and prepare to take a voyage through eight cities in a day, through the ticket and routing calculations, through elite status, upgrades, irregular operations, weather delays, working the system, bumping and marathon flying in a journey that we frequent flyers call mileage running.

Continue onward to Elite status and frequent flyer tiers >>

Or skip ahead to
Should I book a mileage run?
How to find a mileage run
Maximizing miles and segments