Rookie Wednesday – how to build a Delta mileage run

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

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After yesterday’s post, the same post on January 1st each year, that you now only have 364 days to earn your status for the next year, I thought I would do a rookie post on how to plan a mileage run. I have already had a rookie post about what a mileage run is (and touched on this topic briefly), but not how to execute one; also I have had a number of emails and tweets with more questions. Being one of the greatest mileage runners of all time, obviously I need another post to explain this more fully, but please go back and read the previous one to get more background info. So here we go.

Let’s start with some basics.

  • This is the most important, and I will say it again and again, just like last time, when you find a great deal be it a mistake fare or whatever, don’t call (the airline or your wife, husband whoever), don’t question, just book and book lots. Once you have 2 or 4 or 10 trips booked, you can sit back, look at “what you have done” and see what will work. You will have 24 hrs to cancel any booked flights (with Delta – starting from the USA) and that will give you time to see what can work or not. Never ever call as if it is a mistake fare, it will be gone even faster than is already the case.
  •  Don’t worry about where you start. Seriously. If you live in MSP and the run starts in MIA, so what. Same thing other way, you live in MIA and the run starts in NYC, that is just fine. We are talking about flying 5 or 10 or 20,000 miles over a few days; do your really think an extra flight and day to reposition to the start city matters at all? So look at all kinds of cities all across the nation.
  • Remember the reward. You may have to burn a few vacation days; you may have to spend a few bucks; you may need to send flowers to your wife; you may have to go to the chiropractor and get a massage when it is all over. But it can be worth it once you say reach GM or PM or DM and get treated so well by Delta. Upgrades, free EC seats and on and on. To me, the rewards for a year of flying with status has much more value than what I give up, but that is a very personal question to answer.

Now let’s move on to how to find a run.

  • Where does one find a mileage run? Naturally sign up for the Delta Points text alert as I will text you if I find a good one. Next, scan often the Mile Point MR board and the FT board. Also you can look at blog. After that, do some work. Give back to me and FT and your fellow flyers. How? Use ITA Matrix to search for deals and e-mail me and post to FT when you do find a deal.

Speaking of that, if you have other software or sites, that work well, share them in the comment section below. But back to Matrix. Understand the search. The link I have above plugs in the CPM or cost per mile to get the max value. I do NOT suggest using other “switches” that turn off other airlines in your search. Why? Often Delta will match if others have a deal. And, why not share if you find a deal on another airline as others may benefit from your work.

Lastly, be sure to search 100-500 miles from your start point you pick and the location you are going as you can always reposition if you can not drive to that starting airport.

  • How do I get max MQM’s? This can take work. What I would do 1st is book what you can find on It will often show you many connection options and you should have trained yourself enough to quickly see that flying say via DTW or MSP or ATL or NYC will give you more MQM’s than one or the other. Beyond that, you can book segment by segment and, for the same price, get even more legs in the deal. But if you book the other way quick first, this will give you time to tinker and search; if the fare goes away while you are searching, you will already have a “good” run locked in. If you find something better, cancel the 1st booked one inside 24hrs for no charge.
  • Domestic or International MR? Oh my, can this question make people “hot under the collar”. Some will suggest it is so much better to do an international run as a bump pays out more, the miles are bigger and you get done quicker. That is true. But, others will say domestic as the flights are shorter, you never have a visa issue. Also if things go wrong you are closer to home. So, there is no right or wrong answer here. Personally, I like domestic and back to back days. However, I would jump at an international one if the deal was right (thinking of one like this – I booked one w/other dates/route 🙂 ).
  • We are are talking about MAX everything here. If you can, pay with a voucher and let Delta pay for your run. Otherwise the AMEX GOLD Membership Rewards card gives you 3x points for airfare and should be a goto card to buy airline tickets.

So final thoughts to plan for and think about. Once we have done all of the above, what would I do as the perfect run?

  • I would fly 2 days straight, take a day off, in a hotel if need be, and then fly 2 more days straight again and be done and take a break. This should net you around 20-30,000 MQM’s (GM+ 40-60,000 RDM’s) depending on where you fly and should cost you $500-1,000 plus food and a room. If I have to reposition, I add some to the cost and time and this becomes 7 days total trip!
  • Also, this is a stress to the system. Sure, it is fun, but also work. Do things to make this less so. If you do not have DM status, or a Delta Reserve card, buy a 30 day Skyclub pass for $90. Being able to come and go from all the Skyclubs is worth a ton. From a shower to refreshments & wifi, all these remove stress from the run. Speaking of wifi, get GoGo. Get a one month traveler pass and cancel when done with your run (cheaper than buying many 1 day passes). I find having contact with home just great so being gone so long has less of an impact.
  • What are things to take? First, obviously, never ever check a bag. You can take your carry on +1 personal item. I suggest a nice backpack and a good computer bag as your personal. Pack an extra pair of pants, many undergarments and a few shirts. Stay simple. I try NOT to take a coat unless the middle of winter as most time I am in an airport or on a plane. Beyond that, I have another post about what I fly with you can check out.
  • The last thing is should you run? How many MQM’s do you need? It could take you 7-10 days of flying to earn 50,000. All of this also depends on your goals for the next year. Are you going to fly enough to make a run worthwhile? Or, are you going to book a bunch of Skymiles tickets and having PM and unlimited free changes again and again is worth earning the status and taking your run. Beyond this, getting a DELTA Reserve card, personal or business, can earn you 10,000 MQM and spending $60,000 in one calendar year would add 30,000 more MQM’s. If you can do this, it could eliminate the need for a run at all or help push you up to Diamond Medallion status at last.

There you go. Now you have the tools to build your own run. Any other questions? Ask away – René

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  1. Can I tag along and do a MR with you? Would love to learn the ropes from a master MR’er.

    Happy New Year to you and Lisa.

  2. I see on the FT MR forum that anything at or below 5.0 cpm is a good mile run. What are people averaging on Delta for mile runs so I know where to aim? The best I’m getting out of MIA is 4.1 cpm.

  3. @Armando – IMO, 2-3CPM is a GREAT price. 4-5 is a normal price. 6+ is due to a need end of year and still often cheaper than buying MQM’s!

  4. Hey guys, I have a rookie question. Recently I have requested mileage credit for the MR I did back in Nov 2012. The points are already credited to my account with today’s date. Will those points counts towards my 2013 account activity and status check, or the flight needs to be flown in 2013?

  5. Do you actually get the MQM miles quoted or are those sometimes adjusted by Delta.

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