Booking My First Mileage Run (and Lessons Learned)

[warning: this is slightly long and probably not of interest unless you’re into this sort of thing, but if not, you may still get something out of it and not make the same mistakes i did.]

i ran through some calculations and determined i will be less than 100 miles short of Premier Platinum on United by the end of the year. i thought i was i a shoo-in because the Swiss Airlines segment of the Star MegaDO was rumored to be booked as a full Y fare, which earns 150% Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM), but turns out it really was not. so, to be on the safe side, even though i hear United sometimes grants the next level of status if you’re close, i found a decent mileage run (MR) from Philadelphia’s Amtrak station to San Diego late last night for $196.70 all in that worked out well because I would be in Philly on business with that weekend to spare anyways.

Comes out to 4.0 cents per PQM

i thought great, it’s the same flight number (1228), same type of plane, so it’s likely the same aircraft that will me take to San Diego and back, so if there’s a delay on the outbound, the inbound will just be delayed as well. however, i discovered thanks to a reply on flyertalk it’s not the same plane and that i would likely have to change terminals (and exit security) in San Diego. and once you add in the cost of the train from the airport to the train station and back (which i would need to do since i need to drop off my rental car), it ends up going up to over 4.4 cents per PQM. because of that and the whole hassle involved of having to get to 30th Street Station, i decided to look into my options again and found another flight, this time going to Orange County instead, and departing from the airport.

$254.70 a/i, 4.28 cents per PQM

so, i log on to and cancel my old flight, choosing the option to reapply funds to future travel instead of a refund back to my credit card.

not a wise choice.

when i tried to set up my new flights (which you do via a “change flight” process), it wasn’t pulling up the same segments that were showing on a regular flight search (where i got the $254.70 price), despite being in the same G fare bucket:

This was the only option presented for the outbound when trying to rebook. Note the horrible time and the additional $227 required. Not totaling $254.70!

panic mode commenced. if i was stuck with a ~$423 ticket, this wouldn’t be much of a mileage run at all! i called the Premier Line and, bless the agent’s heart, she was not at all surprised that i wanted to come back the same day (i figure they must get lots of MR requests). she managed to get the flights i wanted, although it ended up being slightly more.

$259.20 instead of $254.70, 4.35 cents per PQM with 500-mile elite minimum

still, better than i would have fared (ha! see what i did there?) had i gone the original route, plus i can take a shower at a lounge in Newark without having to worry about my bag sitting on the carousel since it wouldn’t get checked all the way through to Amtrak.

apparently the agent had to do something to force a seat into inventory — i didn’t press her on it but long story short, i have now learned that even though it may cause more hassle, it may be best to refund the amount back to the original form of payment and then book a new flight rather than get tangled up in and revenue management when you choose to reuse existing funds.

anyways, let’s all cross our fingers my first MR will be a success! i’m not counting on upgrades because it’s a G fare (=almost bottom of the barrel) and me being a lowly Gold, but we’ll see, since F looks pretty open now based on seat maps. not an amazing deal but good enough. and yes, i’m flying home the afternoon of the return of the mileage run, so i will be doing PHL-SFO two days in a row. holla!

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