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Circling around on Delta / SkyTeam mileage runs for 2018. My strategy going forward!

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Runs can be really fun!

The above is me, my Lisa and two really fun frequent flyer crazies who joined me on one of the several mileage runs to Lima, Peru this year. The dude in the background literally pushed past all of us to be the 1st one on the jet (he was seated in coach btw). The “day” visits to Lima were fantastic and so much fun – what a city (other than the traffic).

But why do this? Is mileage running even a “thing” anymore? I thought with revenue based tickets you only earn for what you pay for the ticket? I understand your confusion, but you are misinformed as when you fly there are two kinds of points you earn. The kind you spend a.k.a. SkyMiles is based on the price of the ticket (and your status level) as well as the fare class of the ticket. How far you fly matters not – just the cost. Now the other points you earn when you fly that you can not spend are elite points or medallion qualifying miles or MQMs. They are NOT based on the price of the ticket but how far you fly and what fare class you are in.

The above is the simple explanation. But then it gets a bit more confusing. You see, Delta has lots of partners in SkyTeam (Delta, the company, owns a percentage of many of them). When you are flying on a partner and want to earn reward points with Delta the rules are different. In these situations the price of the ticket again does not matter just how far you fly and most importantly what fare class you are in the day you fly. Yep, it is not the fare class you purchase but the one you are in the day you fly – sorry, I don’t make these confusing rules, Delta does!

With all of the above in mind I have received a number of e-mail’s from readers asking about why I have not posted any mileage runs this year on the blog and if I am going to do so at all this year. I have now posted two over the past few weeks and both are very nice runs as far as earning elite points. That is the key when it comes to mileage runs as there are rarely times you can take a run just to earn SkyMiles anymore. Having said that, with SkyTeam partner flights the bonus SkyMiles on top of mega MQMs can be a very nice part of the mileage run equation.

Now that we are just about half way through the year I am going to post more runs that I find either on my own or with links to the source of the find. There are, under the current rules, less and less folks both searching for and posting runs and this is yet another reason you are seeing less sweet deals. But know there are still deals out there and some just never make it into public. That is why if you really want to find some of the sweetest runs you need to sign up with my friend Adam and his team as they will privately alert you when something amazing is found!

Also at this point in the year you should be able to decide for yourself if “whatever” medallion level is worth chasing anymore. Some have come to the conclusion that with Delta selling upgrades so cheap the value of status is no longer worth it. Combo that with gate shenanigans on the rise a.k.a. 1st class seats going out empty because Delta gate agents can not make the time or care enough to pull medallions who have boarded but were on the list. Others still value the perks and the rewards, like me, so now is the time to run the numbers for the year. What do you need? How far up the ladder do you want to climb.

It really is important also to remember that more than just elite MQM miles is needed. Spending is needed but Delta Amex cards can help. The personal and business Delta Amex Reserve cards and Platinum cards offer bonus MQMs via spend goals and they offer exemption from the ticket spend part of the equation if you spend $25,000 a year on one or across several Delta Amex cards. This year that only applies to Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion as you have to spend a bat crazy ¼ million for Diamond exemption. But the chance to harvest, if you will, large totals of MQMs still has great value for those still seeking status.

And with all of the above in mind here will be my focus for the rest of the year and what I will post for you – mostly partner runs. Not saying I will not put up Delta flights but the real prize is flying business class a long way on a partner airline. Not only is it way nicer to fly business class but the destinations are worth the effort, that is, I will try to post not only “turn and burn” runs where you never leave the airport but ones where you can stay a day or three to enjoy where you are going. As to how often I will post, to me sub-par runs are just not worth posting anymore. If I am going to run I am going to get real value back and I want the same for you!

Any questions on any of this or mileage runs in general? Ask away in the comments section below! – René




  1. Edward O'Meara

    MQDs are the real issue Rene. AmEx stuck it to most of us by focusing on small business people that can get the $250k through business spending.

  2. rene

    @Edward – A few partner flights, at the right fare class, and MQDs are zero issue. When you can get 3-4k credit for a $500 flight, well… #Winning!

  3. I sort of agree with Edward. Spending $1500-2000 on mileage runs does seem like a lot of money to me. Wish there was a better way.

  4. rene

    @Evan – Said just that in the post. For some it is no longer worth it now. That is not me – for now.

  5. dotti cahill

    wish i have gotten onto the Lima runs!!!

  6. I had 150k MQM rollover miles heading into 2018. I’m spending $30k on the AMEX reserve each of the next two years to keep Platinum status, then I’m going all in on Southwest.

    I wish Delta hadn’t chased me away, but I like being able to take free domestic flights on a whim and my wife can go along free as well.

  7. IT sounds like you don’t mind giving your opinion on people’s situations. I retired over a year ago. My once frequent flying has dropped to a very low point. But when I do fly I want a little status for the benefits it brings. Because of my lifetime of flying I have Delta’s lifetime silver status. And with 50,000 MQMs more, I can have lifetime gold status. Not the same as platinum or diamond. But it helps in many ways. Silver tends to be worth little or nothing.
    So how do I get 50k MQMs? I just signed up for the Delta Reserve Business card. I will get 10k mqm signup bonus with initial spending, and if I hit $30k in spending total this year I’ll get another 15kMQMs. That will be 25k, leaving me 25k short. That Reserve card costs a pretty $450 by the way, but I figured that was cheaper than a 25000 MQM mileage run. (tho maybe not with your skills).
    So, how best to get myself 25k MQMs. I’ve been looking at LAS to PVG, since I’ve seen some low fares on Delta Partners to Shanghai. I have heard people head to Singapore, you mentioned Peru and some even go to South Africa. Short of a paid service, what is your favorite way to search out these deals? Any other advice? I’m retired so my travel dates are flexible.

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