As the summer has turned into fall the last couple of years, I've carefully monitored my air travel to ensure that I keep my elite status on American Airlines. One technique, which I may have used this year if I didn't work for West Monroe, is a mileage run: flying one or more low-cost legs to boost your mileage. Via the Economist's Gulliver blog, the Times' Josh Barry says mileage runs are going away:
In the last year, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have made two major changes to their reward programs that make mileage running a lot less useful. First, they imposed a minimum spending requirement to obtain elite status. Previously, you became a “silver” or “gold” or “diamond” flier by traveling a minimum number of miles or segments in a year. Now, to qualify you must also spend a minimum amount on airfare; for example the status tier for traveling 25,000 miles also requires $2,500 in airfare spent, or 10 cents per mile.
Then, the airlines blew up the definition of “frequent flier mile” so it no longer has anything to do with distance. Starting in 2015, fliers on each airline will earn five “miles” for every dollar they spend on airfare, regardless of where they go. A $537 ticket from Washington to Amsterdam via Istanbul will earn the same number of reward “miles” as a $537 ticket from Washington to Chicago.
The logic of these changes is to reward passengers for generating profits for the airline, not simply for traveling a lot of distance. Business travelers who buy a lot of high-price tickets at the last minute will be rewarded more; bargain hunters will get less. And these changes come after a decade of shifts that have already made it harder to get ahead by taking mileage runs.
American hasn't made these changes yet, and has promised not to do so until their operational merger with US Airways is finished late next year. But of course they're going to do it. Fortunately, I now work for a company that will actually get me to elite status faster than I could do it on my own.