Hot! The Mileage Run

I’m addicted to my frequent flyer status. Several years ago I took two trips to Europe and unexpectedly found myself part of the Delta Air Silver Elite. They’ve had me a First Class Upgrade ever since.

In this day of nickel and dime fees, frequent flyer status is a wonderful perk. Free baggage, jumping to the head of security lines (especially on international flights), preferred coach seating, and complimentary upgrades go a long way to ensure I look at Delta flights first.

So where’s the rub? Every calendar year, I need to log 25,000 miles to maintain my status. For business travelers, this usually isn’t a problem. For the independent traveler, it can be a challenge – especially in recession times. Last year I only made it because Delta bonused me 10,000 miles.

With two months left in the year and peak holiday travel on the horizon, I’m still 4,500 miles shy for 2011. It’s had me on the computer looking for the bargain mileage run. Yesterday was a happy day. Southwest announced a boffo sale – $30, $60, $90, and $120 bargains. True to course, the other major airlines followed suit.

Some frequent fliers are professional mileage runners. Check out Mr. Happy Flier, who will spend 24 hours zig-zagging across the country in his quest for the bargain mile. There’s a science for these people who have formulas for how much an air mile should cost. That’s too much math for me. I use a general baseline – can I get to the East Coast and back for $200?

It also goes against the traveler in me to land in a city and not get out of the airport.

So with $90 one-way prices to Chicago via Atlanta, I texted a girlfriend in neighboring Indiana. Was she up for a girls’ night in the Windy City? This morning as I build my Chicago Twitter list, I am questioning my senses and the mettle of my thin Arizona blood. Chicago in December?… Well, I suppose I’ll burn off the beer calories quickly.

Southwest’s sale ends tomorrow night, so pick a place and go. There are no change fees with Southwest, so live the dream. Plan that Valentine trip for your sweetie. Hit up New York for post-holiday sales with the gal pals. Visit Arizona for golf and sun. (I hear it’s great fun.) If anything goes awry, just cancel and use your credit another time.

And if you’re a frequent flier junkie like me, book a mileage run on your airline now. You’ll thank yourself in December.

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