Mileage runs can be a great way to rack up the miles in a short amount of time. Basically you search for a cheap flight that will be traveling as far as possible. The more miles you fly, the cheaper your CPM (cost per mile) is.

Why would anyone want to do a mileage run?

If you’re close to earning elite status with an airline and you only need a few thousand more miles, doing a quick mileage run on your weekend off can be a great way to meet that threshold. For instance, I need 3,300 miles with Delta this year to earn Silver Medallion status for 2015. For the past couple days I’ve been trying to search for a combination of flights that will earn me this many MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles).

Do miles earned through my credit card count as MQMs?

Short answer no. There is an exception to this rule that some credit cards will earn you x amount of MQMs, but you have to charge an enormous amount to the credit card every year. That topic is for another time. For the purpose of this post, let’s say you charge $1,000 to an airline co-branded credit card. You’ll receive 1,000 miles, but the miles won’t count towards earning elite status. This is why mileage runs are a great alternative! It’s an easy way to rack up miles and earn towards elite status at the same time.

The future of mileage runs.

That bad news is airlines are switching over to revenue based versus earning miles on the distance you fly. This means that if you score a cheap ticket on a flight that’s going to travel 3,000 miles, you actually won’t earn 3,000 miles.

If you take a look at Delta’s 2015 calculator, you’ll see that if you were to score a low ticket for $200 that’s traveling 3,000 miles, you’ll actually only earn 1,000 miles!

Delta 2015 SkyMiles MQMs

Flying from MSP to LAX round-trip in 2015 will only earn 1,000 miles versus 3,072!

So how much would you have to spend on a flight from MSP to LAX in order to receive roughly the same amount of miles? $615 per ticket!

Delta 2015 no more mileage runs

This is over a 3x fold increase in price to earn the same amount of miles in the 2014 SkyMiles program!

Other airlines such as American Airlines and U.S. Airways still earn you miles based on the distance you fly, but I’m sure that will change in 2016 after the merger has finished. So what does this mean for the future of mileage runs? You’ll have to fly a heck of a lot more to earn that elite status with the airline of your choice. I’ll plan on keeping my elite status with Delta by charging my way through with Delta co-branded credit cards. Stay tuned as I’ll write about that in a later post.

Who does the new program cater to?

The rich. Customers who spend a lot on their tickets or fly first class will have no problem earning elite status with airlines that are going revenue based. This means that a whole lot less people will be entitled to free upgrades. It’s all about supply and demand. This is similar to the changes Delta made to their lounge access earlier this year. Amex Platinum card holders now have to be flying Delta the same day and can longer bring guests in for free. Delta saw their lounges were overcrowded, so they solved the problem by making changes in the policy. Similar to what they’re doing with the new SkyMiles 2015 program.

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