In the old days a mileage run was a cheap domestic ticket with a lot of connections that allowed the traveler to earn miles without paying very much. When airlines started putting limits on the connections, people switched to mistake fares or other cheap international flights — but still in coach. However, the best scenario is when those low fares apply to international travel in premium cabins.
Even when the price still seems a little high, don’t forget about the numerous bonuses you can earn when you actually pay for a business class ticket instead of redeeming miles. Plus, your mileage run will include the comforts of a lie-flat seat and lounge access.
Update: It appears that this particular fare is now dead and now prices closer to $2,000 (or $1,450 with discounts). However, the primary message of this post remains: expensive fares sometimes earn more than enough miles to make up the difference.
This morning British Airways announced a two-day fare sale from the U.S. to Europe. It includes flights from the West Coast, and by applying additional discounts from my AARP membership and British Airways credit card, I was able to get the price down to $1,091.65 for a three-day weekend trip to London.
How many miles will you earn? Remember that British Airways is a partner with Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. The most generous bonus is on American, and more people fly American, so I’ll use them as an example. Remember to include your AAdvantage number on your ticket.
SEA-LHR is 9,600 miles round-trip. So you’ll receive 9,600 award miles at the base level.
Furthermore, American is currently running a promotion that offers up to 125,000 bonus miles on round-trip business class travel between the U.S. and Europe. You can get 25,000 miles per round-trip flight — but you must register before you travel!
We’re not done yet. AAdvantage members will automatically earn extra award miles for certain fare classes through December 31, 2015. This is a discounted business class fare in the “I” class and earns an additional 3,500 miles in each direction if you have Executive Platinum status or 1,000 miles if you have Platinum or Gold status. (General members aren’t listed here but also earn 1,000 miles on “I” fares.)
This means anyone can earn a minimum of 36,600 award miles from a $1,091.65 ticket, an effective “cost per mile” (CPM) of 2.98 cents. Most people would be happy with a CPM ~3. It’s been increasingly difficult to find a CPM < 4 in the past two years. And don’t forget: you get to fly business class!
Earn More Miles If You Have Elite Status
Executive Platinum and Platinum members also continue to earn the normal elite benefit of a 100% bonus on the base award miles, while Gold members earn a 25% bonus.
- Executive Platinum: 9,600 bonus miles (status)
- Platinum: 9,600 bonus miles (status)
- Gold: 2,400 bonus miles (status)
An Executive Platinum member would earn a total of 51,200 miles including these two bonuses, for an average CPM of just 2.13 cents. American just announced a sale on purchased miles earlier this week at 2.1 cents. Now you can essentially “buy” miles and get a trip to Europe thrown in for free!
What about Earning Elite Status?
Trying to earn or requalify for status? Because of how American’s program works you’ll still receive only 1 elite qualifying mile per mile flown. But you can qualify under a separate tally that looks at “elite qualifying points” or EQPs. You’ll earn 1.5 EQPs for each mile flown. Although American has a promotion to earn bonus EQM on premium cabin flights, these need to be AA flights (you don’t have to register; it’s automatic). This is a BA flight, so you’ll just get the usual 1.5 EQPs, which is a total of 14,400. All-in-all a pretty good deal for those who need both miles and status before the end of the year.