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13,784 MQM’s 31,014 RDM’s & a stupid amount of fun Delta Mileage Run!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I love a good mileage run. A mileage run is even more fun when you get to fly with friends. Last run, I sit down in 1st class next to my seat mate and he is on a mileage run and reads the blog. This time, well:

I sit down and do a courtesy nod to my seat mate as he is reading his e-book. Then, after a bit, I ask if he is flying for work or going home? He answers:

“I am doing the same thing you are, René”!

You are kidding me. Scott reads the blog and is on almost all the same flights Kathy & I are on for the next 3 days. Crazy and it was great to get to know you Scott and hope to fly with you again!

This run I did something I normally don’t ever do (or try not to), that is I went some place other than the airport (and airport hotels don’t count in my book). I rented a car from Thrifty (more on that later) on Ultimate Rewards points to make that part almost free and drove down from Phoenix to Tucson. I love the 75 MPH speed limit on the way through the desert. I found it hard to concentrate on the drive as there was just so much to see, but especially all of a sudden a parking lot full of aircraft appearing in the distance. I was told they are for scrap, but did not have time to go look up close (maybe next time)!

I have some dear, life long friends in the Tucson area who I ski each year with in Salt Lake. They showed me around the area and it was really an experience! The Arizona desert is about as extreme opposite as you can get from my Swedish heritage. Rather than cold and rolling rocks you have dry foliage and flat lands surrounded by peaks bursting up all around you.

But then it was back to the task at hand; the task of racking up as many frequent flyer miles as I possibly could in as little time as possible (that is after all the point of a mileage run right?)!

Mostly I spent a ton of time on Delta Jets, many of the 757-200 variety as you see above and below. All were in 1st/business class other than the starting and ending CRJ200’s to and from South Bend.

I also flew a fair amount of time on Airbus 319’s & 320’s as well as MD’s. I really wish Delta would add power to these jets. Missing power ports is really frustrating when you are flying this much. With only a few hours between hops I felt a bit like a power leach looking for an outlet. My phone was fine thanks to my power brick, but laptop life is only so-so.

One flight from Texas, as you see in the video above, produced a “steam” bath that was rather unique and I had not seen to this degree ever before!

But let’s now get to the numbers. I used 20,000 FlexPerks points that came with the card & cost me only 3 visits to my Vanilla store to get the full bonus points so that cost was $19.75 to reposition me from South Bend to Phoenix to start my run. I am not counting my car (paid with Ultimate Rewards points anyway) as that was a personal extra and not part of the “run”. I then paid out of pocket to Delta $144 each for the 2 round trip tickets for the run. Thus total cost out of my pocket all in was just $307.75

13,784 MQM’s brings me to a 2.2 CPM
31,014 RDM’s gives me at least $310 in value

I thus eked out a $2.25 gain on this run, but the drive from home to the South Bend airport washes that out so really let’s call it break even. Not a bad haul for that many more MQM’s (medallion qualifying miles) that I will end up rolling over into 2014.

If you are keeping track this year, the net push for this run has had a positive impact on my “running” totals for the year. I have still only spent $1,600 and have gained 46,000+ MQM’s at a CPM or “cost per mile” of just 3.5 cents. Also, I am nearing 100,000 RDM’s or Skymiles earned (if you count the bonus miles for a few little issues & customer service complaints I am over 100k this year). At a very conservative 1 cent value for Skymiles I have almost reached Gold Medallion status for just $600 on mileage runs alone this year! At my personal value of 2 cents per Skymile I am $400 ahead for the year.

I have 4 more runs booked this year that will net me over 45,000 more MQM’s. If all my math works out I will meet the MQD’s (medallion qualifying dollars) minimum spend on my  AMEX Reserve card  by the end of Feb2014 and with the bonus MQM’s from that card have just about locked up my Diamond Medallion status by March 1st of 2014 all the way through FEB2016! 🙂 Anyone game to join me on my next run? – René

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Not saying youdid but when factoring in cost of travel, it’s important to remember that people don’t count the savings twice. For example, say you were bumped and got a $200 voucher. If you counted it as cash on this trip, when you redeem it you must not count it against the next trip, or you’ll have valued it double. Same as credit card points. Don’t count them when you earn them AND burn them.

    Just hope ppl think about that when they way the economics

    • @Jay – I agree you only count it once. I count it NOT when I earn it, but when I redeem it for MY math. Like my IST run, I used a voucher so the cost came off. Now, I used FlexPerks points so the cost came off. If I had got a bump THIS trip, the cost would NOT have come off this trip but when I used them next time. This is just my math. Others may count it when they earn say a bump but then not when they burn it. Like you said – only 1x.

  2. Rene,I will be doing the Phx run once 10/29-30 and then the MKE run twice just after Chicago seminars and in the middle of Nov. Did you get any bump Opp’s?

    • @Craig – ya know I am on a big dry spell as of late. All full flights but no bumps at all on like 20+ flights. Close but no bumps. I hope you score one! – Rene

  3. Nice post. Sounds like you need to swap out the laptop for a tablet for the weight and battery life.

  4. Just flew to JFK from Rome, Delta had a really rough Thursday and Friday. Apparently, JFK was closed for 8 hours for weather on Thursday, and Friday weather still not the best. We had almost 3 hours to get from international customs to gate and barely made it just to see them keep moving boarding times back in 10 minute increments so we could not go to Skyclub.

    Yesterday it is rumored that it is the last time you will have to take the hidden C Gate bus from the B concourse to T2 to board at Gate c66 that boards 3 planes at a time every 15 minutes or so.

    Tips learned: No one was taking bags at international recheck, all counters were busy and everyone was standing in line. I had to go up there and tell them they needed to let people with good connections drop there bags.

    If C gate at T2 is not going away, the markings are not clear- you follow signs for B Gates from international then on your left maybe 50 feet or so after the first B gates on left is a door that looks like a closed ticket counter with a monitor that says bus to T2 c gates. everyone missed it on our bus.

  5. dot cahill Reply

    sounds like a good run i need to try something or no status looms ahead for me…

  6. Sounds like you had a great run, and hit two of my favorite spots: Franklin’s BBQ and my hometown of Tucson! Glad you enjoyed it – you should spend some more time there and definitely check out the Airplane Graveyard. Lots more to do in the area, and across AZ in general.

  7. Great stuff! Rene, can you clarify: “minimum spend on my AMEX Reserve card by the end of Feb2014”

    Why is it February and not December 31st?

    • @gussomer – oh I should have been more clear. Yes you have till 31DEC2014 to meet the MQD spend but I have some BIG stuff to buy in JAN/FEB next year (and a bunch of Vanilla) so I should be able to spend $30k in those two months total. 😉

  8. For a newbie who is not used to booking long, complex bookings on Delta, I’m just curious how you booked the sbn dtw phx msp aus dtw phx atl aus msp phx msp sbn routing. Was one of these an open jaw? I know to others this might seem simple, but I feel like I’m losing out on doing some easy mileage runs to Phoenix from Michigan.

    I’m looking to fly out of SBN, too, so a little guidance for us who are inexperienced would be super helpful.

    • Hi Jason – no please ask away. I booked ticket one on my US BANK Flex perks points from SBN-DTW-PHX-MSP-SBN. Ticket two was PHX-MSP-AUS-DTW-PHX. Ticket three was PHX-ATL-AUS-MSP-PHX. So I used ticket one to get there, flew tickets two and three, then returned home on ticket one. Clear? – Rene

  9. Oops… okay, now I see that basically all of the connections were through hub cities (MPS, ATL, DTW)… makes sense.

  10. I’m not sure if it’s posted anywhere on this blog, but does anyone know how one might do a mileage run from Europe?

    Are there any tips out there?

    Thank you in advance!


  11. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    Ventilation system steam baths can be quite disconcerting. MCO is my home base and I have a similar experience during all of the warmer months, although I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it on a DL 757 before.

  12. Texasyankee Reply

    Great trip! Now get back to sending low MR fares to/from AUS … 🙂

  13. Rene- Okay so it seems that you allowed Rookie Wednesday to bloom and here it is Thursday am so here is my status and my questions?

    Currently I am Delta SM, I hold Delta Co-branded Amex Platinum and have easily hit the $7500 spend, I have 16,555 MQMs on 5 flight segments and 46,095 TQMs. I need a mileage run or 2. I went to Shanghai earlier in the year and might repeat for business and if I do I would love yo be at GM before 2014. So long lead in here, but how did you plan the last mileage run so cheaply? I live in Ft Wayne Indiana and cant find the low cost bookings you are. Can you make some suggestions about the “blocking and tackling” that made this happen? And I would be glad to join you in SB for the next run. KevinIN

    • @KevinIN – would be great to fly with you some time! I post now and there is no great secret – just keep looking for deals and when they do pop up book them and a ton back to back. MKE, about a 4 hour drive from FWA keeps having some killer deals. There was one I missed on FT a week ago from MDW for $151 for a ton of MQM’s. Check the blog often and I will keep trying to alert you as much as possible!

  14. Flying first class business. Husband is 6’3″ and I am 5’2″. Would you suggest seats A&B (front row) or the second row? I hear mixed. Never flew this way before and just want a good experience. By looking at the layout on the Delta Airbus a319, it looks like the very front row isn’t good?? Thanks!

    • @Kim – Space is not bad at all but a little restricted due to bulkhead.

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