My Mileage Run Report

This past weekend I embarked on what I can only describe as a ridiculously brutal, 8,700-mile, 7-segment, 38-hour nonstop mileage run. I decided to do this run because I was (randomly?) targeted by American Airlines for a Platinum challenge.

Along with the free challenge (there is a regular paid challenge too), I received the Platinum status upfront through December 31, 2014, plus 20 free “stickers”, or 500-mile upgrades just for signing up. If I flew 12,000 miles or earned 12,000 Elite Qualifying Points, I would then be able to keep my Platinum status until February 2016. While I had some work and personal travel planned before the end of the year, it wasn’t even coming close to the required 12,000 miles, so I had to decide whether to book a mileage run.

By using Google Flights and then ITA Software for quite a while looking at options, I was able to find a $577 mileage run that would get me the remaining number of miles I needed.

My mileage run

My mileage run

It involved flying out of Austin, just over an hour drive from San Antonio, at 6:00 a.m., so I decided to book an airport hotel on points and get into town the night before to get a good night’s sleep instead of having to get up at 3:00 a.m. to drive the distance between San Antonio and Austin. My hotel also let me leave the car at their lot for free and take the shuttle, so I saved the airport parking money.

I was also able to use two of Joe’s systemwide upgrades that were expiring to upgrade to first class, so that made my decision to run a lot easier. In retrospect, I don’t think I could do a 38-hour mileage run in coach, not for Platinum status anyway.

Booking the run was tricky. I had to take into account that in early November my wife was due to give birth to our first child, so I could only book flights for December. Anchorage was a pretty cheap destination (since nobody is going there in the winter!), but I had to be careful. The deeper you get into the winter, the more there is the potential for snowstorms to really wreck your travel plans, and my run involved two notoriously trouble spots, ORD and ANC (just because of the winter weather).

ORD 36 degree weather. Luckily no snow.

ORD 36 degree weather. Luckily no snow.

In the end I decided that the first weekend of December would be a good time to run, as the really bad winter weather doesn’t usually start setting in until around Christmas, so I took my chances and hoped that would be early enough.

I was worried about being 10 hours into the run and wanting to return home, but I was also excited about my first mileage run. I was a bit anxious about all the travel, but when it finally started, I really enjoyed every moment of it (most of it anyway).

I set the tone with a good breakfast right out of the gate

I set the tone with a good breakfast right out of the gate

I was incredibly lucky that for such a complicated travel schedule, I did not get a single weather or mechanical delay and I was able to complete the entire run without any problems. I did make sure I had plenty of connecting time at most airports, just in case. I also experienced for the first time what it was to sleep on an airport bench, as I had an 11:45 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. layover in Anchorage, not long enough to merit booking a hotel for the night. The Alaska Board Room at ANC closes at 1:30 a.m., so at that time I had to head for the main terminal to sleep. I managed to get a couple of hours in, on and off. It really helped.

Alaska Board Room in Anchorage

Alaska Board Room in Anchorage

To help things along the way, it was also a big plus that I had lounge access at every single airport I visited, including the Centurion lounges at SFO (review here) and DFW (review here). This really helped to cut down on the cost of food and made the airport experience a lot more palatable. In fact, I only spent $10 in food and a bottle of water during the entire trip.

Admirals' Club - ORD

Admirals’ Club – ORD

Malaysia 747 at ORD

Malaysia 747 at ORD

On final approach to SFO

On final approach to SFO

SFO Centurion Lounge

SFO Centurion Lounge

Downtown L.A. on final approach

Downtown L.A. on final approach

Recharging at LAX Korean Air lounge

Recharging at LAX Korean Air lounge

Seattle - always raining

Seattle – always raining

My only "glitch"

My only “glitch”

So, was it worth it? To me, it was. If I would have had to do the entire run in economy, maybe not. It was a grueling schedule. However, sitting in first class (except for the two Anchorage legs in coach, operated by Alaska) and being able to sit back on a comfortable seat and save on food money was a big plus. Being able to take a shower at LAX half way through the trip was also very refreshing.

Lunch from ORD to SFO

Lunch from ORD to SFO

Lunch from SEA to DFW

Lunch from SEA to DFW

Alaska Board Room pancake printer

Alaska Board Room pancake printer

Banana pudding at DFW Centurion lounge

Banana pudding at DFW Centurion lounge

Since I already had Platinum status up front, with the 100% bonus miles benefit I was able to earn 18,544 AAdvantage miles for the entire trip. I value AAdvantage miles at around 1.7 cents each, so I “recouped” about $315 out of my $577 trip.

Another big plus was the fact that the challenge included 20 free 500-mile stickers. Stickers are $30 each, so I received $600 in free upgrade vouchers. If I would have had to complete the challenge and pay all that airfare money just to end up having to purchase stickers next year each time I wanted an upgrade, it wouldn’t have been worth it in my opinion.

In the end it was a great experience that I always wanted to have, and now I will keep my Platinum status until February 2016.

Have you ever done a mileage run? If you have, what was it like? I’d love to hear others chime in about their experience.

Michael

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