What’s a Mileage Run really worth?

As a summary of our Labor Day weekend mileage run to Panama City and back (#NMCLaborDay), we thought we’d leave you with an explanation of why it made sense for us to do it and a rundown of all the numbers we tallied up.


  • Departure from Seattle: Friday 1:10 PM
  • Arrival in Seattle: Monday 5:38 PM
  • Time away from Home: 77 hours
  • Hours Flown: 27 hours
  • Hours in Panama: 16 hours (8 asleep)
  • Romantic dim-lit on-board dinners with your +1: 10
  • Miles Flown: 12,086
  • Flights Flown: 10
  • Aircraft Flown: 737-900, 737-800, A321T, 777-200, E175, 767-300, E190
  • Lounges Visited: SEA Alaska Board Room, SFO Admirals Club, LAX Admirals Club, JFK Admirals Club, MIA Centurion Lounge, PTY Copa Club, MIA Admirals Club, ORD Flagship Lounge.
  • Money Spent: $755/each
  • Qualifying Miles earned (Ben): 18,372
  • Qualifying Miles earned (Jon): 24,496
  • Redeemable Miles Earned (Ben): 27,558 + 50,000 Requalification Bonus
  • Redeemable Miles Earned (Jon): 8,000

Now, why does it really make sense for us to do this? A few reasons, other than the fact that we’re crazy and we actually ENJOY traveling. First, since January 2016, which is when I qualified Alaska 75K Gold, I have flown 13 segments on Alaska metal. Out of those, 11 of them I paid for coach tickets and got upgraded to first, sometimes 120 hours out, sometimes at the gate, but upgraded nonetheless.

So, these are the flights I took with prices for coach on the left and first on the right:

Alaska tickets

If you do the math, I spent $2048 on all Alaska flights alone while going on some vacation trips and a couple mileage runs. If I had chosen to ticket them in first, I would have spent $5793, but instead I got upgraded for free because of my status, so I ended up saving $3745. Yes, THREE THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE DOLLARS.

Since qualifying as an Alaska 75K Gold member requires me to fly 90,000 miles on Alaska + Partner Airlines, that means I’m earning, as a minimum, 275,000 miles every year that I requalify. Yes, you read that right. TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND MILES. That’s enough for a one-way first class ticket on Emirates to eat caviar and drink Dom Perignon until I start regretting it, plus a one-way ticket in business class to Europe on KLM to keep my Delft Blue Houses growing.

Now, consider that a one-way first class ticket from Washington DC to Dubai prices at, drumroll please…

Emirates ticket

And a one-way business class ticket from Amsterdam to San Francisco on KLM costs around…

KLM ticket

So, yes, I did spend a couple grand in earning my Elite status on Alaska flights (plus the money spent on other partner flights too), and yes I did have to waste a couple weekends flying for no reason other than getting my qualification miles. But doing so enabled me to save $3745 on free first class upgrades and gave me the miles to purchase a first class ticket that’s worth almost $20,000 plus a business class ticket that’s more than $6,805.

I think a $30,094.88 worth of savings absolutely justifies my butt being in an airplane seat for 27 hours on a long weekend so that I would requalify and keep my elite status.

Ben running the Emirates First and Business Class Bar

Ben running the Emirates First and Business Class Bar


Are you FULLY taking advantage of your elite status and are you doing some crazy mileage runs to get them?

Author: Ben Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. This is something we don’t ever hear about in the UK and is maybe taking things a few far for many of the travel hack shy Brits but I really need to check this out. P.s I definitely think Ben has a career change ahead of him. How good does he luck in that outfit?!

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    • I’m not sure if the conditions are there for European mileage runs (with airlines whose programs aren’t revenue based) really, but on this side of the pond, mileage runs are a pretty quick and easy way to get there, if you can find tickets that make sense. And as for the career change… I’d like to think I’m much better at eating the caviar than serving it!

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  2. I have a EWR-NRT-SIN Roundtrip in United Airlines Economy available on a particular long weekend for $645. This will enable me to earn 20500 base miles as well as status miles with Singapore Airlines. How do I calculate if this is worth the run.

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    • I suppose the calculation isn’t as easy as most people think. Most people would do a CPM calculation (cost per mile) so you’d take your $645 and divide by miles earned (20500) giving you 3.14 cents a mile. For most people, I would think that anything under 4 cents is a good mileage run. Where it gets sticky is if it makes sense for YOU. Do you want to fly 22 hours in coach? Do you need those miles? Do you want to go to Singapore? If the price is good, and it’s not going to inconvenience you, then go for it!

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  3. I know you know this already, but I think it’s a little disingenuous when bloggers (myself totally included) talk about the cash price of first class and other tickets that most people would not ACTUALLY pay.

    Yes the cash prices are $2000 in coach and $5700 in first, and yes, there is a premium (which varies from person to person) but I don’t think it’s completely true to say that having status is “worth $3700”, because you wouldn’t actually be paying the $5700 if you didn’t have status.

    Just like when my wife and I flew first class around the world, it’s not really accurate to say that our miles “saved” $27,732 (and 70 cents) – though of course I still wrote the post about it 😀

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Dan. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to assign a cash value to elite status, although I do concede that it different for everyone depending of how much they take advantage of it. When you got the $27K first class around the world ticket without paying $27k, you absolutely saved that money, just like when you go grocery shopping and use coupons to save you 90% of your purchase!

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