How to build a mileage run

Discussion in 'Mileage Runs/Travel Hacking' started by dts, Feb 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. dts
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    dts Silver Member

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  2. Chris H
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    Chris H Silver Member

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    For those who prefer to type in addresses (instead of bookmarks), the shorter version:
    http://www.farecompare.com/flyertalk also works.

    I use Expertflyer for the next several steps.
    http://www.expertflyer.com
    • read the restrictions and routing rules
    • find best days for my upgrades to clear
    • check availability
     
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  3. hdawg
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    hdawg Silver Member

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    I keep FC + ITA + GCM in a bookmark folder and open all 3 at once every time I look for a MR; never have to think :)

     
  4. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    In addition to the above I also use:

    Mileagebrain.com is in its infancy but has given me some good city pairs.

    I also like Kayak.com to give me a rough idea of of city pairs and the various segments I can take between city pairs. My best chance of elite status for UA (my 2011 project to get PE) is to get it via segments instead of miles.
     
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  5. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    I also absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the ITA app that is available for Android phones. Gives me an easy way to look at potential fares no matter where I am.
     
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  6. Chris H
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    Chris H Silver Member

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    I really like the iPhone version as well.
     
  7. joesmoe
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    joesmoe Gold Member

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    ExpertFlyer
    ITA
     
  8. wijomas
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    wijomas Gold Member

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  9. barelyelite
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    barelyelite Silver Member

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  10. barelyelite
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    barelyelite Silver Member

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    What details of the fare rules are most helpful for constructing MRs? How can they help you improve your price per mile?
     
  11. Chris H
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    Chris H Silver Member

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    Understanding the fare rules helps you qualify for a given fare (and keep the total cost down), thereby helping you decrease your ppm. IMO understanding the restrictions that are a part of the fare is a critical component for MR building (at least for me). You need to look at the very simple restrictions (advance purchase, min stay, applicable days of the week) as well as the more complex restrictions (stopovers, applicable flights, ticketing restrictions).
     
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  12. cliburn
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    cliburn Gold Member

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    I find the routing info more valuable. I am always surprised at the allowable routing on some fares.
     
  13. Wanaflyforless
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    Wanaflyforless Silver Member

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    Here is one of the ways I like to find and construct mileage runs:

    1) I go to http://www.farecompare.com/search/flyertalk.html, specify my preferred departure cities (top of screen), filter carriers to only include airlines I care about (check/uncheck boxes on left), and search by price per mile (click tab above fares displayed you want fares sorted by).

    2) In a separate browser, go to www.Expertflyer.com, click fare information, enter (one at at time) the 10 lowest city pairs identified by Farecompare. This shows me the base fare and gives me links to more information about the fare.

    3) In Expertflyer, read the routing rules for each fare of interest. When you pull up a fare, there is an icon on the right next to the fare to click on for fare routing rules.

    4) In Expertflyer, read the fare rules (by clicking another icon on the right next to fare) to identify date validity, the maximum number of connections allowed, and if international, what the fuel surcharges are to add to the base fare.

    5) Choosing the 3 or 5 fares with the most interesting routing rules, go to http://matrix1.itasoftware.com/cvg/dispatch in another browser window, choose month long searches, enter city pairs, airline, and specify interesting allowed routings (per routing rules) and search.

    For example, if ELP-SEA was of one my best identified fares, I would have seen that the ELP-SEA AA routing rules read as follows: ELP-CHI/DFW/STL-LAX/OAK/ONT/SAN/SFO/SJC/SMF/SNA-SEA

    So I would enter from "ELP :: AA ORD AA SAN AA" on ITA software month long search, to see if there is ever availability using the lowest fare with that routing

    6) If I find no availability with that fare searching ITA software with the nice routing specified (as shown above), I move on the the next fare

    Some factors I consider:

    A) Cost per mile (CPM) (longer the routing the better, use http://www.gcmap.com/ to compare distances)
    Divide the cost of your ticket by the number of miles earned to determine your cost per mile. The lower the better. I try to get under 3 cents per EQM (elite qualifying mile).

    B) Time efficiency of run. How many miles/EQM earned per hour/day? Can I do several days in a row to lower cost? Does it require long connections wasting my time?

    C) I like to avoid Barbie Jets (regional jets) most of the time. What plane you like is a matter of preference but many people find all Barbie Jets to be uncomfortable.

    D) I like to fly international configuration aircraft on domestic routes for the vastly improved comfort in business/first class.
    Routes that sometime have some international configuration aircraft:
    ATL-SFO/LAX/LAS/JFK/MSP/DTW, IAD-ORD/DEN/SFO/LAX/SEA, JFK-LAX/SFO/ATL/MIA, BOS-SFO, EWR-IAH/LAX/SFO, DFW-MIA/ORD/LAX/SFO, MIA-ORD/DFW/LAX/SFO, and IAH/EWR/ORD/DFW/SFO/LAX/PHX-Hawaii.
    Expertlfyer provides me with routing rules and airline schedules. I look at Expertflyer seat maps on the above routes to see what aircraft if any in the current schedule have international business class seats (to upgrade into).

    *KVS Tool Diamond Tier can do all of the things I use ExpertFlyer.com for in the above process.
     
  14. WonderBret
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    WonderBret Silver Member

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    A lot of people use farecompare maps, but I prefer Kayak.com/Explore as a starting point. Every now and again I have found one that is a good start, and then found a way to help it slim down with a 3x or the like.
     
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  15. Wanaflyforless
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    Wanaflyforless Silver Member

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    Understanding Routing Rules
    Routing rules include many routes the airline does not fly today. In order to book your ticket, you need to not only identify a valid routing but also identify a valid routing the airline (or a codeshare partner) actually flies. My favorite tool to understanding what routes my airline currently serves is the "Airline Route Mapper."
    Routing rules use airport codes to identify each city involved. If you don't know what the 3 letter code stands for, you can look it up here.
    “-” means “to”
    “/” means “or”
    “FROM” means “start with”
    “TO” means “Continue with”

    Multiple “FROM” or “TO” lines means choose one.
    You must use one “from” line followed by one “to” line.
    You can skip as many or all of the intermediate cities along the way.
    Whatever cities you do not skip in the routing must be transited in the order they appear in the routing.

    Example:
    Let me interpret a sample routing for an AA fare from ELP-SEA.
    The ExpertFlyer routing rules say:
    ELP-CHI/DFW/STL-LAX/OAK/ONT/SAN/SFO/SJC/SMF/SNA-SEA

    So you can go from ELP to CHI or DFW or STL to LAX or OAK or SAN or SFO or SJC or SMF or SNA to SEA

    Since I am building a mileage run, I want the most miles for the least $, so I want to choose the longest routing this fare allows. So I want to chose the most out of way cities between ELP and SEA.

    First choice is between ORD, DFW, and STL. ORD the farthest east, so the least direct/most miles from a direct course, so ORD it is.

    Then I need to choose between LAX, OAK, ONT, SAN, SFO, SJC, SMF, and SNA. SAN is farthest south, thus farthest from SEA, so SAN is our choice.

    That is how when I see these routing rules: ELP-CHI/DFW/STL-LAX/OAK/ONT/SAN/SFO/SJC/SMF/SNA-SEA, I choose ELP-ORD-SAN-SEA, 4009 miles in one direction.

    Most people (not mileage runners) would prefer the most direct route offered by AA between ELP and SEA so would choose to fly ELP-DFW-SEA, 2211 miles.

    As you can see, the routing rules allow twice the shortest distance. We would never know to ask ITA to find us ELP-ORD-SAN-SEA routings using the ELP-SEA fare if we never looked up the routing rules.

    Just because a routing exists does not mean it is bookable. Some routings are not currently flown. If there are no flights operated by or code shared between two cities, they cannot be included in a routing you want to book. "Airline Route Mapper" when trying to figure out what routes do and do not exist.
     
  16. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    Another very useful tool to know is Route Maximizer. You can drop the routing rules (found via ExpertFlyer or KVS) in and it will give you the length of each possible routing ordered from longest to shortest.
     
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  17. Wanaflyforless
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    Wanaflyforless Silver Member

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    Thanks for mentioning that tool - I have used it at times and found it a time saver when digesting very extensive routing rules.

    One thing to keep in mind is that tool does not know what routes the airline actually flies - so it will show many routes that cannot be flown based on current flight schedules. You still have to figure that out yourself, eliminating routes that do not exist.
     
  18. k2o
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    k2o Silver Member

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    Wannaflyforless-thanks for sharing your methods. This was like being at a DO [​IMG]
     
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  19. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    I've used United's website directly quite a bit, because of its fare choser screen. You can scroll up and down their routings and piece together the itinerary. Their site has sometimes had options I would not see on kayak or other fare engines.
     
  20. dagolfdoc

    dagolfdoc Active Member

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    Thanks for all the useful tips here! I'm planning on doing my first MR in the next 30-60 days, and I have a couple questions. How far in advance should I begin looking - 30 days? Also, I don't understand the fare rules at all - is there an easy way to understand them or a link to descriptions? I want to route through different cities, but can't figure out how to do that (the link above airline route mapper - doesn't seem to work with mac's). Lastly, it sounds like expertflyer is a must if I want to do this properly, so it's worth the subscription price?

    Sorry for all the questions - I appreciate the help all the veterans have given so far. I just want to make sure I do this right!
     
  21. Tinkerer
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    Tinkerer Gold Member

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    To start with, it also helps to see what others have been kind enough to share. For example, if you are looking at AA or CO, there's a pretty good fare to Japan though March (<$700, <$.04)
     
  22. Wanaflyforless
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    Wanaflyforless Silver Member

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    In order to have access to complete routing rules, the rules that dictate what connections you are allowed to make on a specific fare, you need to either pay for ExpertFlyer.com or KVS Tool. If you only plan to ever do one MR, no, probably not worth learning the art of mileage running and paying the costs of the tools. For one single MR, just search online and choose flights that you like. Searching online, the results will include some connections. You only need to read the routing rules if it is worth it to you to find out what the longest routing permited by that exact fare is.
     
  23. dagolfdoc

    dagolfdoc Active Member

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    I really only fly DL, since I live in ATL, but I'll keep checking what others post to see if something good shows up soon.
     
  24. dagolfdoc

    dagolfdoc Active Member

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    I'm planning my first, but I can see myself doing a couple more this year. It seems the fee for expertflyer isn't too much, so I'll subscribe and see what I can learn. I just want to do the first one right - I would have done it all wrong if I hadn't found this forum & flyertalk. Thanks for all the help, and any other suggestions are certainly welcome!
     
  25. NewGamePlus
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    NewGamePlus Silver Member

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    Wanaflyforless this is the comprehensive breakdown i have been searching for. I cannot thank (or like) you enough for posting this.
     
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