A mileage run I probably should not repeat


What the hell was I thinking? Sure the allure of cheap PQMs and low fares got to me but I should have known that trying to cram nearly 15,000 flight miles – with the longest segment just below 2,500 – into just over 60 hours was a bad idea. I have flown similar trips before but none of them involved three consecutive nights on domestic redeye flights. That was just stupid.

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Getting ready for departure from IAD

The fun all started when a crop of $140-ish round-trip fares popped up between Philadelphia and San Diego. I bought a lot of them. That’s a pretty solid price for elite qualifying and the award points are always good to have, too. Plus I figured that a few hours of quiet time to read, write and nap would be useful. I made sure that I didn’t have to start too early from Philadelphia and even managed to work in some variety in my routings so I wouldn’t see the same airports over and over again. Some of that fell apart due to delays and sometimes because I chose to change some of flights. And the flying was, overall, really quite reasonable. I met some nice people along the way and did, in fact, get most of the reading and writing I wanted to do in. But those silly domestic redeye flights.

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Sunset as we approached the west coast one night

I slept pretty much wheels up to down on all three flights. Strangely the third – when I was the most tired – is the one where I slept the least. Part of that may have been that the FAs chose to make the full set of announcements about snack boxes for sale and the pilots gave a detailed briefing of the weather at Newark, both well after takeoff. Part of it may have been that I was just exhausted. Even if I did sleep the entire flight that was roughly 4 hours each night. And it was sleeping on an airplane, not the most comfortable option out there. I did sleep more on some of the other flights, which certainly helped. And I managed to get a shower in the Lufthansa lounge in Dulles on both Sunday and Monday; that was huge for me. But by the time I got to my apartment around 6:30 this morning I was pretty much beat. Even a couple short naps today haven’t fully reset my body clock.

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Another sunset shot

As for the trip, here are the final stats…

Routing as flown (it was initially booked rather differently): EWR-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-EWR for 14,401 flight miles on 10 segments. There was also a train ride from Philly to Newark at either end of the reservation.

PQMs earned: With 500 mile minimums I should net 15,862 PQMs from the trip. At least one and possibly two of the rebookings along the way were into Y or B fares meaning the PQM earning may reach as high as 18,500ish.

RDMs earned: Similar to above, I should be somewhere between 31,500 and 35,000 RDMs for the trip. That’s taking in to account the Y/B bonus and 1K bonus earning.

Upgrades: I was upgraded on only 3 of the 6 transcon flights, two redeyes and one westbound. Considering the last minute changes to the reservations I’m not all that surprised. The PHL-IAD flights didn’t offer upgrades (ERJ-145) but I was in row 12 on all of them, two had 12C with 12B empty next to me.

I only left the airport once, for dinner in San Diego. I was outside of security for less than 3 hours in total during the 60 hours of travel (and really the 60 is longer given that I was inside ~3 hours before I left Newark on the first flight). I visited lounges in Philly (AA/BA, US A West and US B/C) and Dulles (Lufthansa 2x) during the trip.

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Sunrise at Newark this morning with the Manhattan skyline in the background

The good news is that I got most of what I needed to do today done anyways and I should be able to sleep a full night tonight, hopefully resetting my internal clock completely. The bad news is that I have two more similar trips planned. Apparently the siren call of the miles is one I have trouble ignoring.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

26 Comments

  1. More power to you! My body simply can’t handle MRs like this anymore, but I completely understand why you’re doing it.

  2. I cant even find flights like that out of Tul..nice job but that would take a toll on my body..

  3. So THAT’S what you’re doing Seth. 🙂 This is why I follow your blogg, for the sincerely and the unvarnished way you tell your tale and acknowledge your mishaps as you share your personal accomplishments.

    The write up reminds me, on a different scale, what my Memorial Day weekend MR, IAH-JNB via YYZ & LHR was all about. The need to stay clean was imperative, so I wouldn’t be thrown out of one of the planes. So, I’m grateful to the showers at the Air Canada arrival lounge in LHR and the SAA lounge in JNB. Although I slept on those night flights, I was happy to enjoy my bed once I got home. 19K miles & 1K completion already was the incentive, but would I do it again? I don’t know, although you’re SO right on that Siren call!!
    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.

  4. I second AptTraveler’s comments – it’s great to hear about your successes but also challenges too. Thanks for the great post, Seth!

    I’m curious, what is your target metric of a worthwhile mileage runs, as in PQM/dollar? Also, since MP status lasts the remainder of the year plus the year after, why do a run now in June verses the beginning of the year?

    Good luck with round 2 and 3! Looking forward to those reports.

  5. @HansGolden: I have two other 3x runs booked, one in October and one in November.

    @Derek: My math is always a bit fuzzy, but there are a few metrics I focus on. One is $/PQM. I actually get good value from having the elite status versus just churning points via CCs, plus NYC lacks some of the infrastructure for that churning. And I like flying (though doing it like this maybe not so much). At 3 cents per PQM I think I’m doing very well. This trip came out between 2.7-3.1 cpPQM, depending on how many I actually earn with the rebookings (I should know in a couple days when everything finally posts).

    The other value I’m getting right now, at least in theory, is rapidly closing the gap towards MMer status. With this trip fully posted I should be at 943,866 lifetime miles. I have a trip to Tokyo for the DEN-NRT inaugural next week, Montevideo on Copa later this year and a trip to Rio for Labor Day. Without the two additional runs later this year that booked travel gets me more than 39,000 more miles flown, all of which counts towards MMer. With the additional SAN trips I’ll cross MMer this year. And, while there is no reason to rush it, I’m excited by being so close.

    I should also note that the Rio, Tokyo and Montevideo trips are all reasonably good fares, though not in the 3cpPQM range; I believe the max is ~6cpPQM. One is a route inaugural (DEN-NRT), one is a summer vacation with my wife and one is a long weekend with friends in Rio. I’m willing to spend a bit of money for those experiences.

  6. you are amazing…. I’ve only done 1 run in my life (a second planned), but I aspire to some of the experiences you have!

  7. Wow — quite an experience…. and definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Inagural DEN-NRT.

  8. ahhhh reminds me of the famous NWA zone certs where I did DCA-MSP-LGW-MSP-HNL-MSP-LAX-DTW-DCA in a weekend for $385 a/i

    Oh, gotta love the LH lounge at IAD! Puts that United “Club” to shame…

  9. This is literally totally freaking crazy. I mean, I LOVE flying, but this is bananas. Why would you do this to yourself? Don’t you have better things to do?

  10. That’s an epic MR, congrats! And I used to pat myself on the back for doing ONE back-to-back transcon MR. Did you get the upgrade on the last, third redeye? If not, that would’ve been brutal.

  11. It would be a great service to the public to explain in layman’s terms what this gets you (and what it would get a non-status person):
    “RDMs earned: Similar to above, I should be somewhere between 31,500 and 35,000 RDMs for the trip. That’s taking in to account the Y/B bonus and 1K bonus earning.”

    Sort of like what you did for @Derek in the comments, with the additional comments of, had I had no status/points for the year whatsoever I would have received X points that did/did not put me into the x level of status.

    Many times these types of posts assume that the readers understand the value of RDMs etc.

    I would find it interesting to learn that say someone with no points, could do this weekend twice and get X status that corresponds to lounge access, more points, upgrades etc..

    Without more information it’s hard to see the value of mileage running – especially if you are starting at zero.

  12. I’ve done this before and decided it’s not worth it. For me the sweet spot has been EWR-IAH-NRT-IAH-EWR – same amount of PQMs virtually and even if I don’t upgrade the international sectors, much more bearable. An depending on all of the costs – food, parking, etc etc the net costs are not that different.

    1. If I could get EWR-NRT for <$500 AG I’d be all over that. I like the international flights, too and find that long-haul MRs are usually more comfortable. Alas, getting them at a rate of < 3cpPQM is very challenging.

      For this trip my total costs really were right around $500. The only extra I paid above the airfare (~$460) was a train south to start the trip and one back north to finish. I think I ate a couple meals in the airports as well but I was almost certainly going to eat anyways during those days and the cost differential wan't particularly great.

  13. Hi Seth. EWR-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-IAD-PHL-IAD-SAN-EWR. Very impressive. Curious if this was booked as one ticket or as 2 or 3 different tickets. If one ticket, how did you book it; multiple destination itinerary on a website? If 2 or 3 different tickets, please tell us how you considered the possibility that a delay on one of the early flights might have caused you to miss subsequent flights, including those flights on a different ticket in which case the airline theoretically has no obligation to accommodate you. Are you counting on the “flat tire ‘rule’” to help in that situation? Will airlines generally try to make accommodates if one misses a flight due to a delayed same airline but separate ticket flight? Something else? Thanks very much. Please keep up the good work.

  14. This was booked as three separate tickets, HPL. I did consider that they might not be able to help me in case of delays, especially between itineraries, but figured they probably would and that I could handle the risk if they didn’t as I’d be in Philadelphia at that point and bailing out would be easy. In the end I did have a “connection” in Philly between trips 2 & 3 which was blown because of weather on Monday morning. I called in and they were able to switch the third trip around to accommodate my needs, including swapping ZFV for PHL and putting me on a flight well after its original schedule departure time (it was quite delayed but res didn’t know that).

    I wouldn’t normally recommend booking that way for trips which actually matter unless you have a solid travel insurance plan. This time around, however, the only “insurance” I felt I needed was the phone number to United’s 1K line.

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