Mileage runs – end of the year travel to get enough points to hit some fancy airline status level for the following year – are common amongst frequent flyers, and a complete waste of resources as people who don’t really need to go somewhere, go somewhere.
Cathy and I just got back from one of these trips; we flew overnight to Dallas for basically no reason other than achieving Air Canada status.
I have a better idea.
A way to avoid the waste, and help people who truly need help.
Let me donate a flight to someone who really needs help.
About mileage runs
Now, I’ve done mileage runs several times before – mad scrambles to find a cheap flight or three in December just to hit status for the following year.
(Here’s the tale of my 2012 attempt.)
Lots of people do this. Here’s a whole forum on Flyertalk devoted to finding cheap mileage run deals.
Airline frequent flyer programs, including Air Canada Altitude, give you various perks depending on some combination of how many miles you flew, flight segments you took, and/or dollars you spent – and at the end of the year (once you’ve achieved status for the following year), the clock resets to 0.
Altitude is different than Aeroplan – Air Canada is weird in having two totally different programs – Air Canada Altitude (for status) and Aeroplan (for miles you can redeem for flights or other prizes.) And, Air Canada and Aeroplan are splitting up next year so it’ll probably all change again.
Air Canada calls their highest Altitude level “Super Elite“, and to get there, you have to fly 100,000 miles (on Air Canada or its Star Alliance partners), or take 95 individual segments, and spend at least $20,000. (There are also different tiers at 25,000, 35,000, 50,000 and 75,000 miles.)
Perks might include the occasional upgrade to business class, a free checked bag or two, access to the Maple Leaf Lounge, or – my favourite – personalized help when something goes wrong.
(You might think this is all pointless but once or twice a year, that help makes it all worthwhile.
I’ve had the Air Canada concierge meet me at the door of the plane with new boarding passes when there’s been a problem. I wish they helped everybody that way, but they don’t.)
My 2017 pointless mileage run to Dallas
I’ve been lucky enough to be at the Super Elite level the past few years but by mid-December when my business trips for the year were done, I was only at 96,039 miles.
So I started looking for a cheap flight before the end of the year that would get me at least 3,961 miles.
A little digging uncovered a relatively cheap trip to Dallas – which isn’t quite enough miles, but if you arrange that your return trip comes through Montreal instead of direct, it was just enough to put me over the top. So off we went. I thought about going down and immediately back, not even leaving the airport, but instead we had a fun overnight visit, and really enjoyed our visit to the Sixth Floor Museum, a tremendous interactive display about the Kennedy assassination. And we got back home New Year’s Eve night, and I think I have enough miles now to be Super Elite again next year.
So what’s the problem?
I didn’t need to go to Dallas. I spent money on a plane ride I didn’t need, taking up space, wasting fuel, all to hit this top tier status. All around the world, other frequent flyers are making stupid, wasteful year-end trips just to accumulate enough miles or segments to hit the various status levels.
Meanwhile, there are people who truly do need to travel – to visit sick relatives, for instance – who might not be able to do so.
Air Canada knows this, and to their credit, has set up the Air Canada Foundation to provide free tickets to children’s hospitals across Canada.
Here’s my idea.
Next time I want to do a pointless mileage run, let me donate the cost of the ticket to the Air Canada Foundation, and they can fly somebody else who really needs to travel. Let me have the status I crave, but let somebody else who needs to travel, actually do the travelling.
It could work like this:
- You have to be 95% of the way to your goal.
- You search Air Canada and find an itinerary costing $X that will put you over the top.
- You donate $X to the Air Canada Foundation.
- Air Canada provides $X of travel to a needy family. They fly, not you.
- You get the status points.
Seems like a win-win-win situation to me.
Come on, Air Canada, what do you say?