Monday, December 03, 2012

The Mileage Run

So I'm currently on my second mileage run and people think I'm crazy and so I wanted to take a little space to explain what the hell I'm doing and why.  First, here's what my flight path looks like for the past 48 hours.

This deep vein thrombosis party is netting me 11,534 US Airways miles.  Currently, US has a promo where if you use their credit card, they will double the PQM.  So that will be 23,058 miles.  Let me back up a bit and explain some basics.

So a mile is not a mile.  There are actually two different kinds of miles for airline purposes.  My friend Scott has a good rundown on this on his blog, but in short. An RDM, or redeemable mile. is a mile you get from flying, or from renting a car, or from using your airline credit card.  Almost all miles are RDMs.  They can be redeemed for travel or other stuff including TVs or other crap.  They are most valuable for flights in premium cabins. These miles stay in your account and often you need activity in a year to keep them.  Bear in mind that activity can be something like ordering a magazine with miles or checking in on FourSquare for 50 miles somewhere.  The easiest way is to use the airline's shopping portal.  US's is located here.  Buy anything, preferably cheap and then keep your miles safe for another year.

The other kind of mile is a Preferred Qualifying Mile (PQM) or Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM).  The clock for collecting these miles begin on Jan 1st and end on December 31st.  These miles must be flown.  Otherwise known as Butt In Seat (BIS) miles and these get you elite status.  What is elite status?  Well, let's look at what I got today from my elite status:

  • I got to use Pre-Check at DCA, which lets you keep your shoes and belt on, your liquids and your computer in your bag, and you only have to go through an old school metal detector.  It was like flying in 1985.  Free with my Gold Status on US.  
  • I got to choose 10F as my seat.  Not only is it an exit row, but it doesn't have a seat in front of it.  So I've got tons of legroom.  
  • I'm upgraded to first on my next flight, which means extra room, free booze, and more. 
  • I get to board the plane in the first group, which means plenty of space for my bag, which isn't a big deal today because I only have a backpack.  
Here's a chart from American to show what their benefits are.  The levels usually start at 25,000 flown miles in a year, and most top out at 100,000 EQM/PQMs for the top.  There are levels above that, but the numbers are small.  
Elite Status matters a lot, to me.  The ability to preselect the exit row alone is amazing.  On United, they have Economy Plus, which has rows of extra legroom, and people love that.  So I will make Platinum on US this year between my flights already and one more upcoming.  That puts me further up the list on upgrades and other benefits.  I'm contemplating buying up to Chairman's Preferred, which is the top level.  Seems nuts, but they give you vouchers that allow you to upgrade your coach seat to business when flying international, and so they are worth thousands of dollars.  

Again, I'll never pay for International Business or First, but I will choose to fly them as much as I can.  Matter of fact, the lady and I are going to Munich in February in seats that look like this.

And all it took was 50,000 miles per ticket.  Think about that next time you redeem a flight to LA for 35,000 miles in coach with a seat that doesn't become a bed.  If anyone has any questions about starting out in the miles game, either hit the comments or email me.  


jetsetr said...

Just to clarify something you wrote: BIS and PQM/EQM do not always equate. Whereas paid (as opposed to award redemption) BIS always yields EQM, the reverse is not always true. For example, UA only counts BIS toward Million Miler (MM) status, whereas PQM bonuses (like your 2x offer) count toward status qualification, but not MM. A very technical point, I know, but an important distinction, nonetheless.

Hero to the Masses said...

My friend brings up an excellent point that is important for those looking for Million Mile Status. Which, by the time I get it, will be good for 2 extra sheets of toilet paper in the lav.