Disclaimer: Traveling during 2020 has changed and each person must decide what is best for them and make their own personal decisions. Please consult with your doctor and make the decision that is best for you and your family. For me personally, I do check each area prior to booking and then check the latest health statistics before I leave. I have also been selective in what locations I will travel to. I always mask up and sanitize at every chance possible, along with washing my hands frequently. Be safe!
I have never been one to promote status chasing, however, I think 2020 has presented awards travelers some interesting opportunities. With the Covid-19 pandemic shuttering travel, many hotel and airline companies are offering increased flexibility, extended status, and promotions that make some opportunities worth it to me. In addition, if you can put higher amounts of spend on your credit cards over just your normal everyday expenses, you can really flourish in 2020. I recently took an existing trip and turned it into a crazy mileage run for essentially the same price.
Mileage Run Breakdown
A “mileage run” is going on a trip solely to earn the miles needed for status or, in this case, lengthening an existing trip to fly as many miles as possible for status. With Delta, a mileage run helps you earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (“MQMs” which are solely for your Medallion Status. MQM’s are based on miles flown plus fare class purchased. You will also earn redeemable Delta SkyMiles based on how much your ticket cost and the minimum you earn is 5 SkyMiles per dollar.
Some great mileage runs for Delta can be had as low as $0.02 per MQM. However, many of those may be specific city combinations requiring you to repositioning there. If you are in the $0.03-$0.04 range, you are doing well, and I am very happy if I am getting $0.05 per MQM. I prefer to try and maximize existing trips or time off work to travel utilizing low fares.
Booking a mileage run can be the most difficult part. You are usually trying to fly long distances or through cities that an initial search may not give you. If you are not just flying to one destination and back, things can get a bit tricky. I utilize Google flights and Delta’s sort and filter booking features to find something that works for me. The sort and filter features allow you to route through a certain city which can result in more MQM.
You can book a couple ways: 1) You can try the multi city tool, however, from my experience, this tends to price higher than the riskier alternative; and, 2) The riskier alternative is booking multiple one-way trips leaving yourself what you think is enough time in between flights. This can create risks of missing flights and, in my case, I did miss a flight once. I am more apt to book multiple one-ways, rather than one extended flight at a higher cost, in specific circumstances: 1) If I have status with an airline and I can change flights or switch flights same day without penalty; and, 2) booking with a card that has trip delay or cancelation insurance, just in case you get stuck overnight and need a hotel. That will not make up for completing the trip, but with a stash of miles and flexibility, I feel I could get home from just about anywhere. Your mileage may vary in your own personal risk tolerance.
My Mileage Run
My existing trip was from Seattle to Las Vegas. Booking just 10 days out was $324 round trip which is higher than I have been paying in 2020. I did have a $50 free Delta gift card from a recent promotion on Raise, so the trip would really only cost me $274. A regular trip just going to my destination and back would earn me just 1,732 MQM at a rate of $0.15 per MQM. As a disclaimer, I also made a few speculative bookings with SkyMiles on the return portion of the trip, when I saw a great deal at 6,000 SkyMiles for LAS-SEA. I considered keeping that return and booking the one way to Las Vegas with cash, but then I found a better option!
I started to play around with flight options, as I do often. Google flights is usually a daily occurrence for me, since I like to book cash fares very close to the day of travel. It is also important to remember that Google Flights prices are usually basic economy. This means the first Delta price you see is not what the actual price will be, unless you are willing to fly Basic Economy. I not only look for flights, but enjoy analyzing flight price patterns, especially on Delta. One-by- one I explore city combinations that work until I came up with a routing that maximizes the lowest cost of MQMs and my time off from work. I basically picked a bunch of low cost one ways.
Total $354.90 minus $50 gift card = $304.90
I booked the SEA-BOS Sunday night redeye as a one way, then the BOS-MIA Monday morning flight as a one way, and then finally the Tuesday MIA-LAS as a one way.
That is 6,379 MQM for just $30 more than my original trip. It comes out to being just under $0.05 per MQM. The last leg LAS-SEA was going to bump up my price a bit more than I liked. I kept the previously speculative booking I had made on SkyMiles. With Delta’s increased flexibility in 2020, I routinely have multiple speculative bookings made. Whether cash or miles I can cancel easily and I know I will use the e-credits if it was a cash booking.
I made the trip and survived with just a little jet lag. During my trip, I overnighted in Miami and stayed at The Confidante. I wrote my review here. I was upgraded to Comfort with my Silver status on all but one leg. On my Atlanta to Las Vegas leg, I was upgraded to Delta One. This is actually the second time in October that I was upgraded to Delta One on the ATL-LAS route! Additionally, I hit Gold during this trip because of my American Express Delta Reserve statement posting. It took until the trip was over to officially post on my SkyMiles account, thus not affecting any upgrades.
This mileage run means I am that much closer to Delta Platinum status which I value at over $3,300/year. Doing it for no extra out-of-pocket costs makes it even more worth it to me. If I extend one more trip, in a similar fashion, I will on the cusp of Platinum status. Have you done a mileage run? Come over to our Facebook group and let us know your thoughts.