60 Seconds with Bryan, Graduate Student and Mileage Runner

60 Seconds with Bryan, Graduate Student and Mileage Runner

We recently spoke with Bryan, a graduate student and frequent mileage runner who earned over 80,000 redeemable miles after flying 23 segments on a single mileage run with Continental and United last year. Only about 10 percent of his travel is related to his studies; the other 90 percent is leisure and mileage runs make up about one third of that amount.

InsideFlyer
About how many mileage runs have you completed so far and what’s the most number of miles you’ve earned in one trip?
Bryan
It is difficult to define when one run ends and another begins. One run can include multiple tickets across a period of a few days but it can also consist of a simple roundtrip that takes several hours. Since my first mileage run I have flown approximately 140,000 miles just to earn frequent flyer miles.

The most miles I’ve earned in one trip (using my definition of a trip) would be 40,000 Elite Qualification Miles and 80,000 award miles.

Another component of my travel that I wouldn’t consider “pure” mileage running is the addition of extra segments or creative connections to a regular trip. For example, I flew from IAH (Houston) to PEK (Beijing) last March for vacation. Two routings were available at the same price: IAH-EWR-PEK and IAH-SFO-PEK. The connection in EWR gives about 700 extra Elite Qualification Miles in each direction so I selected that option. The trip wasn’t a mileage run, but those extra miles were.

IF
What tools do you use when constructing a mileage run?
Bryan
If I am looking for a pure mileage run I start with www.farecompare.com/flyertalk. I search specific regions, for example North America to North America, and eliminate any airlines that I don’t want to use, which usually limits my searches to Star Alliance members. Once I find a good candidate I will check routing rules on ExpertFlyer and search for availability on ITA. Once everything is in order I book through a variety of sites but I prefer continental.com.

IF
Are mileage runs your primary way to earn miles? How else do you earn miles?
Bryan
Mileage runs are a significant part of my mileage earning strategy but I also earn from normal travel, special promotions, conversions between programs, mileage malls, etc. There are some cases where I can’t credit travel or purchases to my preferred program and I never like to let an earning opportunity vanish so I have accounts with a few lesser-known companies such as Air Baltic and Royal Brunei.
IF
Have you been able to convince any of your friends (other than FlyerTalk friends) or family members to go on a mileage run?
Bryan
I have not but I can think of one occasion where my mother accompanied me for a small part of my mileage run. My run brought me to Honolulu for nine hours and it was a weekend so I bought her an award ticket on the nonstop flight from Houston.

IF
What have you learned about yourself through mileage running?
Bryan
I’ve learned that I can find solutions to difficult situations such as being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no flights available. I also learned that I really enjoy travel!

IF
What do you like to redeem your miles for?
Bryan
International first class travel is my favorite redemption option since I would never pay $10,000+ for a first class ticket. I also redeem miles for economy tickets on occasions where first class award space isn’t available.

IF
What one tip would you give someone who is about to embark on their first mileage run?
Bryan
Be patient. If your first run is something simple like two flights with perfect weather you probably won’t encounter any problems. If your itinerary is more complicated you will probably experience delays. Don’t view these delays as problems–view them as opportunities to earn vouchers!

IF
What is one of your fondest memories from your travels?
Bryan
I like going somewhere exotic for a short time knowing that it won’t be my last visit. Many people might only experience one or two major trips throughout their entire life but with mileage runs much more is possible. Instead of spending a week in Hawaii I’ll visit for a day and go back several times each year. When I land in Honolulu I still get that “Wow, I’m in Hawaii!” feeling even though I’ve been there numerous times.

IF
Most frustrating moment?
Bryan
I flew a creative routing between Denver and Traverse City on one of my first runs. Traverse City has a very small airport with only a few flights each day and I was leaving on the last flight–a United Express flight to Chicago. My flight was delayed multiple times because no one could figure out what was wrong with the plane. The agents at the airport and on the phone wouldn’t provide any information and I got the feeling that they didn’t care what happened. In the end, I missed my connecting flight out of Chicago but received a free hotel voucher and some United travel vouchers, but missed a day of school.

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