Fare Sale: SEA to Boston or Philadelphia on UA for $240 (3.5 CPM)

HT to botato for sharing two great mileage runs from the Pacific Northwest on FlyerTalk today. United is offering cheap fares to Boston and Philadelphia for around $230-240 round trip. And although I normally recommend routing through Houston for the most miles, in this case there is better availability through San Francisco. It only shaves a couple hundred off the total and even allows for same-day turns. (In particular, SFO seems to be the only option for mileage running to Philadelphia; fares jumped when I looked at going via Houston).

The first itinerary earns 6,765 miles and costs just $240. There is some variation in the fare, but availability is okay mid-week. You’ll pay 3.54 CPM, which is pretty good these days. Be aware that United is still operating at separate gates in Boston and the employees who operate the shuttle service didn’t seem to care at all about my tight connection the last time I passed through on a legitimate flight, not a mileage run.


The second option allows more time for turns and may also offer slightly better odds on an upgrade (but I think your chances are slim on either route, even as a Premier 1K). You’ll get only 6,400 miles at $232, or 3.63 CPM, and there is consistent availability on Tuesday/Wednesday. I’m inclined to pick Philadelphia because of the problems at Boston, but it’s great that both options can be achieved without the added expense of a hotel.


Need help searching? Check out my three part introduction to using ITA Matrix and don’t forget to check other nearby departure airports.

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  • Scottman


    Have you ever tried to figure out what the average cost would be to get from zero status to executive platinum status (or premier 1K) solely via mileage runs? Guess you’d have to factor in the average CPM and then mileage bonuses once you level up (maybe also figure out how to get there using a status challenge as well). But I’d be curious to know how much I’d need if I wanted to start fresh in a new program (I’m going to abandon United now that they’ve butchered Mileage Plus).

    Thanks, Scott.

    • Scottrick

      Mileage bonuses are typically only for RDM, so the cost of acquiring status doesn’t change as you level up. The prices I quote are always per flown mile since I assume people can do their own calculations for bonus RDM/EQM based on their status or preferred fare class.

      • Scottman

        I calculated about $4k, but it seemed like too much of a no-brainer to be true. Figuring you’d earn about 125,000 miles once the bonus kicks in (and what you could redeem in free travel for that), the free food you’d eventually get in elite classes or via lounges… now that my credit card choices are getting limited, maybe it’s worth it to get into the mileage run game.

        • Scottrick

          And that’s why I started this to begin with, and why I often say that travel hacking is more than just credit cards.

          But keep in mind there is a significant time investment, and you probably won’t get many upgrades until next year after obtaining status. Of course, next year you’ll get more miles, too (potentially 200K).

        • Edward

          Remember for 1K status, you need to spend $10k on UA fares excluding taxes/fees! There is no waiver at this level.