New York Time has good article “The Fadeout of the Mileage Run” (access here) about frequent fliers that fly purely for status and/or redeemable miles.
Mileage Runs for purely getting award miles are coming to an end on both Delta (read more here) and United (read more here) next year when both of these airlines are starting to award miles based on the spend and not flown miles.
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:
Mileage running arguably makes sense for some travelers, that is, the sort of people who don’t mind spending a weekend on airplanes going nowhere in particular. These people have a well-established subculture; the Mileage Run forum on FlyerTalk, an online travel discussion board, has generated more than 24,000 threads. But mileage running has never made much economic sense for the airlines. The purpose of a frequent flier program is to build loyalty and retain customers who generate a lot of profits. Mileage runners aim to buy tickets with the lowest cost per mile and extract as many points as possible from them; this is not high-margin behavior the airlines should want to encourage.
And increasingly, they aren’t.
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. (The Amsterdam-Istanbul itinerary I described above cost just 4.6 cents per mile.)
I have certainly done mileage runs in the past when they made sense. I wrote about last year United Airlines promotion from early 2000’s (access here) that earned me 18 segment around the world business class trip.
Mileage Runs for status won’t go anywhere. Both United and Delta only changed how they award miles for these flights, but you still have to fly set number of miles to get the elite status, although there is now spend requirement baked in as well.
I have always advocated for taking trips to meaningful places where you can spend couple of days than mindlessly flying to some far flung destination only to tun back immediately without seeing anything. Wouldn’t you pay a bit more and have some fun along the way as well?