Now that I’m 24 hours removed from my mileage run to Dallas and have no further runs on the books, I figured it would be a reasonable time to reflect on my decision to do the runs in the first place, add some context where I omitted it, and decide if it makes sense to do again in the future.
For some context, see my post on The Case for Mileage Running, in which I outlined my initial rationale for spending three nights on a plane for no purpose other than to get on a plane in the opposite direction two hours later. For those new to travel hacking, also see here for a description of the difference between redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles.
What did I omit?
Often, either in comments or in person, people will point out that “[I] didn’t take into account XXX.” With very few exceptions (and usually I’ll amend the post in the case of one), it’s intentional. Removing variables allows me to focus on the parts of the problem/hack that I find interesting or worthy of explanation, and it simplifies the discussion. That said, for something like mileage running, there’s a huge, clear time cost and impact on my physical well-being. So how do I justify them?
Qualifying for status does matter to me.
My initial argument focused solely on earning airline miles and weighing that against the cash cost of the flight. However, there is also the benefit that these flights will help me re-qualify for Alaska MVP Gold status. As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, the bonus mileage earning (for flights I would have taken anyway, which excludes mileage runs) and seat upgrade benefits have some tangible benefit to me. The problem is that, not having actually held the status for a full year, it’s hard for me to put an actual dollar value on it (and indirectly, on the value of an elite qualifying mile). Nonetheless, it does tip the equation in favor of mileage running.
It’s a social activity.
The other thing I omitted was that I mileage run because it makes for a good story (to an extent). I get to explore a part of my travel hacking hobby that can’t be captured solely by reading, and then I get to write about it.
Moreover, I did two of the three runs with my friend (who is a far more experienced travel hacker than I). Since we don’t otherwise get to see each other much, it’s been a nice way to hang out, and some day I’ll look back
at how moronic we were on it and smile. That’s worth a lot.
Is it actually a good idea?
I was talking to a friend yesterday whose first introduction to travel hacking was my mileage run post, and she raised a few points, but the most poignant one was the following. For context, I had just explained that a business class redemption is worthwhile to me for some (non-full price) cost over economy because it means I’ll actually be able to enjoy the first day or two of the trip rather than being crippled by jet-lag:
“So you’re okay with “losing” a night of sleep going to Dallas but not on your first day of travel?”
In even starker terms, to earn the difference in miles between an economy and business class redemption, I’d be spending THIRTY hours (five SFO-DFW round trips) ‘sleeping’ on a plane/in an airport in order to gain one day of functioning during my recreational travel.
Well, when you put it that way…
I know plenty of people who mileage run, but they do so only in premium cabins (which earn bonuses for both redeemable and elite qualifying miles). For a marginally higher dollar cost per mile, they get a significantly better return on their time. If I’m really serious about my argument that my time is valuable above all else (my one counter-argument is that since my SFO-DFW runs are overnight, I don’t actually sacrifice anything but quality of sleep), I should probably do the same. But that doesn’t make it any easier to justify a $1,200 fare to nowhere, no matter how many miles I’d be earning. Call me a hypocrite, but my rationalism only extends so far.
So, how far will I run?
As long as I have a friend who wants to join, I’ll probably go for it; otherwise, I’ll pass. Either way, I have to throw away all pretenses of it being ‘worth it’ and concede that it’s for amusement, because, well, that’s what I tell myself as I stumble, bleary-eyed between gates at DFW and again while I down coffee after getting into work in the morning. Or for views like this: