Mileage Running isn't good for the planet, but it makes a certain perverse sense as a response to the airlines' incomprehensible pricing schemes, capricious upgrades policy, and emphasis on mileage. It's probably not a coincidence that Southwest Airlines, who pioneered simple, transparent pricing schemes, is more profitable than all the other US airlines put together.
In my last job, I flew to 31 countries in three years, fighting copyright treaties and DRM standards, and made top-tier on three different airlines. I didn't get much sport out of it, but I can now locate a working electrical outlet in the meanest airport.
"I personally find airlines and airplanes to be really neat," explains Joshua Solomin, a 28-year-old mileage runner who works as a software manager in San Francisco. Solomin began running in 2006 after a year of business travel vaulted him into the Premier tier of United's Mileage Plus program, giving him his first taste of the first-class upgrades and other coveted perks that come with elite-level frequent flyer membership. "Mileage runs are a way to maintain that status," he says.
Of Solomin's five runs to date, one of the more impressive was a trip from San Francisco to Tampa via Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, then back with connections in D.C., Seattle and Portland. Thanks to his Premier status, he earned double miles for the trip, more 16,000 of them, for just $232.
On Sunday, he completed his first international run: a $1,450 round trip between San Francisco and Singapore with stops in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Sure, he had only five hours in the middle of the night to explore Singapore, but with United's July triple mileage bonus he earned a whopping 78,000 miles. And he flew business class the entire way.