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Mileage Runs Are “The Most Grotesque, Worst Behavior”? Spare Me.

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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.


Move over, murderers, kidnappers, and other violent criminals. Someone else is far more dangerous than you.

Who are these psychopaths atop the ladder of depravity?

Mileage runners.

Prison concept. Jail bars and metal handcuffs on the floor, dark background. 3d illustration
(iStock.com/Rawf8)

Dr. Richard Carmichael — who authored a study titled “Behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero” last fall — had some choice words yesterday for those of us who take status and mileage runs:

“Mileage runs may be tiny on a global climate change impact sort of level,” he told the New York Times, “but it’s the most grotesque kind of behavior you can imagine, the worst behavior done for no reason rather than you’re rewarded for doing it.”

While private jets — which generally operate only when someone charters one — received a mention in Dr. Carmichael’s report, he specifically saved his ire for frequent flyer programs.

Not Everyone Mileage Runs

Dr. Carmichael proposed last fall “a ban on air miles and frequent flier loyalty schemes that incentivize excessive flying.” Because then people won’t fly as much.

To a degree, he’s right. I probably wouldn’t take three or four mileage runs each year.

Details are shown on Delta Air Lines first A220 in Atlanta, Georgia at Hartsfield Jackson International airport on Sunday, October 28, 2018. (Chris Rank/Rank Studios 2018)

But here’s the thing, doc. We take scheduled flights that operate whether or not we’re on them. These planes will fly with or without us.

It’s not like airlines operate special “mileage run only” flights that won’t take off unless they’re full of mileage runners.

You and I probably know several — if not dozens of — mileage runners. Why? We hang out and associate with fellow travel enthusiasts who value things like comfort and service — which are easier to attain with airline status.

But not everyone mileage runs. I know several of my fellow Boarding Area bloggers don’t mileage run. Many of my friends and family members who travel regularly think I’m crazy for taking 13,000-mile runs over the course of a weekend. They wouldn’t fathom taking a mileage run.

Ban the Miles? Fine — I’ll Still Fly

If frequent flyer programs were banned, I’d still fly. I frequently work in cities hundreds of miles away and must get to those locations (No, I don’t have time to drive there or take a train.)

A lot of passenger airplanes on the air, busy air traffic, traveling high season starts concept. White planes against blue sky. Photo manipulation.
(©iStock.com/Helin Loik-Tomson)

Plus, our family is spread across the country. We don’t have the luxury of taking off weeks at a time to drive somewhere and visit them or take the train.

Airlines Are Getting More Eco-Conscious

Air carriers are starting to get into the act and look toward more eco-friendly options for their operations.

NBC News’ Jeremy Deaton writes that “Biofuels could cut carbon pollution from airplanes by upwards of 60 percent, potentially helping them pollute as little as buses and trains… It is possible to make jet fuel from vegetable oil, algae, rotting fruit — even used diapers. Biofuels could cut carbon pollution from airplanes by upwards of 60 percent, potentially helping them pollute as little as buses and trains.”

Delta is working with a biofuel company in Minnesota. Many others are looking at biofuels, too. Here’s a breakdown.

Look, I’m excited about the potential that biofuels present. Do I want airlines to produce fewer emissions if possible? Of course. Personally, our house is powered by solar energy and lit with energy-efficient lights. We’ve cut back on paper and regularly recycle.

But until airlines crackdown on their carbon footprint, the New York Times piece suggests “you can far more easily switch your home heating system to solar and eat veggie burgers instead of beef.”

Blame the Bloggers!

René and I are part of a group the Times has in its crosshairs.

This is priceless: “Airlines encourage class envy, offering incentives to travel bloggers and other influencers to show off the wonders of the business- and first-class cabins.”

Traveling with someone is even more rewarding when you save money -- thanks to the Delta Platinum Amex cards' companion certificate!
Mr. and Mrs. Public Enemy #1 — During a mileage run to China several years ago!

For the record — despite what some misinformed trolls will desperately insist — we’ve never been offered anything free by airlines in exchange for writing about them. (No wonder! Have you seen how we sometimes deride and criticize them?)

If only the Times pointed out how terrible we are for our Elite Mileage Run section and suggesting people use the great Juicy Miles booking service. 😉

Rant Over — Now It’s Your Turn!

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. What do you think? Am I off-base? Did I miss the point? Or are mileage runs harmless?

While you tell me, I’ll find some more mileage runs and enjoy a beef hamburger. 😉

— Chris

Would you take a mileage run?

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Featured image: ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now

 

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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.


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17 Comments

  1. I’ll keep mileage running as long as I can. On top of being someone that loves status and perks, I’m also an avgeek. I am not getting as much business travel as I used to, but I still get the desire to spend a few hours at JFK and watch planes come and go from all over the world. So, I can combine a mileage run for status with plane spotting at some very interesting airports, what’s wrong with that? It’s kind of a hobby for me. It’s such a hobby that I am working to automate the finding of low CPM trips.

  2. No you’re not terrible. We are all quite flawed and virtually everyone with a few exceptions could do better on limiting the toxic pollution (which kills millions now, not just causes climate change) from emissions we directly and indirectly cause. But it is a serious matter. I’m not sure your sign off covered that. But seriously kudos to you for your solar energy, we could use more of that.

  3. I am a mileage runner at times.

    However, I am also a professional loyalty marketer. And as such, I can say with confidence (and plently of numbers I trust) that frequent flyer programs absolutely do stimulate new and excessive demand for air travel. Mileage runs are the most extreme expression of such incremental demand.

    This is not about “we fly on planes that fly anyways”. EVERYBODY flies on a commercial airliner that flies anyways. But these flights are put on based on the aggregate demand and revenue potential. And mileage runs contribute to that, just like any other ticket sold – presumably with a more “valid” reason.

    So, from an environmental point of view, if you accept that flying is, per trip taken, a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, then indeed flying, and flying more than you must, is very bad. I have seen data (which I can’t verify) suggesting that no amount of paper recycling and LED lights make up for the environmental impact of a single transatlantic flight.

    I am a mileage runner. But I tend to agree with Dr. Carmichael.

  4. No, mileage runners are not anywhere near his characterization. However, I find the line “…done for no reason other than you are rewarded for doing it” both kinda funny and true. So some people like hamster wheels, doesn’t make them bad!

  5. To be fair, the fewer people who take unnecessary flights for airline status, which has ever-diminishing worth these days, the fewer planes that will be in the air every day. Still, I’m hopeful that the airlines will be able to significantly decrease their emissions.
    I would like to install solar myself soon, but in the meantime I signed up for the renewable energy program offered through my local utility. (It’s also cheaper, by the way.)
    As for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, people could have a greater positive effect by giving up or reducing meat consumption. A whole plant-based diet is healthier anyway, and can prevent and reverse heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

  6. I think who is flawed is the big mouth who said those things–What business is it of his to start with!!!
    While I have not taken a mileage run–I’m in the air more than I like as it is–I would definitely do it to keep my Diamond status if I needed to!!

  7. Nothing like making outrageous statements to garner publicity.

    I like to fly, I like airports and I generally like people. I enjoy the aspects of travel and flight. I would do so, even if not incentivized by miles. Yes, I realize that my flying has an environmental impact, but usually arrive and depart with public transport.

    Mileage running has fewer airline benefits, but I do not consider my pleasure as antisocial or criminal.

  8. Barry Graham Reply

    Until there is proof that CO2 is harming the environment I’m going to keep on producing it. I am sure the trees that regenerate our oxygen will be happy. Let’s plant more trees instead of destroying forests. There are so many other harmful things that we are doing to our planet.

  9. Delta and American Express bumped the Diamond Medallion spend waiver from $25K to $250K. They’re to blame for my five ORD-MEX-UIO runs in a row in January to reach Diamond for 2021. But I have to admit it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

  10. Dr Dope Carmichael can go take a mileage run to wherever some of the ‘all knowing and all chastising’ Hollywood elite (Leonardo?) are hanging out on their eco-conscious mega-yacht that they somehow arrived there on ‘carbon free’ because they gave a couple dollars so some supposedly charity that will plant a tree? There’s other places to pant a tree for that type.

    I’ve fortunately made enough MQM and MQD each year to attain and stay DM for all the full years (missed the ‘Charter’) they’ve had it on just regular business and leisure travel. DL has fallen off the cliff in truly having any ‘loyalty’ to it’s ‘most valued customers’ in the years since Ed has taken over from Richard (Ed’s seatback video of ‘loyalty’ is fingers on a chalkboard to me), although I’m kind of stuck with them as having tried AA a couple years ago, it was worse there. Maybe better at UA since the Dr Dao and other PR incidents?

    It’s possible I may need a mileage run this year to keep DM (I’m just a couple months away from 2MM) for 2021 and I’ve really enjoyed and learned from all the articles you have posted so keep running Forest!

  11. I never got into mileage runs until i reached Diamond medallion status. I love the perks and collecting miles. I’m so thankful for RenesPoints.com to be able to not spend over 17k through delta trying to reach diamond. My friends think I’m crazy for doing some of these runs. With (ord/mex/sdq) from aeromexico being my favorite. With 2 to 3 good mileage runs including my regular yearly flights. Reaching diamond is no problem. I love the fact that they can be mini vacations as well. People are gonna fly regardless.

  12. I don’t see a problem with mileage runs at all, I also don’t see a problem with airline travel either.
    My family is 13 hours by plane across the Pacific. I really don’t have an alternative to go see them.

    “But here’s the thing, doc. We take scheduled flights that operate whether or not we’re on them. These planes will fly with or without us.”
    This is exactly what I’d say to people who say mileage runs are bad as well. In fact if we pooled some money and chartered a plane to go somewhere, we probably wouldn’t earn any miles for that flight lol

    Credit card rewards should be encouraged as greener option to earn miles/points. (unfortunately not status for most)
    To earn 10k miles/points… Fly 10k miles roundtrip to Asia on a mileage run, or just put your monthly expenses on a card and earn 10k miles without flying at all.

  13. Barry Graham Reply

    Just backing up what some others have said about the runs themselves. I think I did one mileage run and it was to somewhere that I hadn’t been to and wanted to visit for the first time. It was a mini-vacation. I think mileage runs are fine but I do think people should make sure they are going somewhere that’s fun when they do them.

  14. HuntingtonGuy Reply

    “ the most grotesque kind of behavior you can imagine, the worst behavior done for no reason rather than you’re rewarded for doing it.”

    Is taking my grandkids to Disney’s not also an example of being “rewarded for doing it”? Flying JFK-DFW because my professional credentials can only be renewed there? A quick 4 day run to Rome with my incredible wife?
    All examples of travel that in some way reward me simply for doing it.
    I wonder how many trees had to die to print whatever esteemed review Dr C published his article, but then of course, those trees would have died anyway, whether he had written his bombastic article or not.

    Sadly, hypocrisy and arrogance are at all time highs among some people. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find myself seated next to the good Dr in row 1 some day while he pecked away at his MacBook Pro in drafting his next reprimand of us lowly fellow occupants of this big blue marble.

    I way do an additional milage run this year in his honor, anyone else in for a NYC-MEX-UIO-MEX-JFK run…for no good reason whatsoever!

  15. Oh give me a break…….socialism is the new in thing? What a fraud these people are to tell everyone else how to behave! We are capitalists, the greatest and richest nation the world had ever known. Give people freedom and they will make something. Take it away and things start grinding downward. The day someone shames me for spending my hard earned money the way i want to is the day i might punch them out…seriously.

  16. Not wanting to be overly political on a travel blog but….. IMO we should all ignore these micro value efforts like “stop mileage runs” and instead focus on a macro level issue like stopping hundreds of thousands of deaths via opioid and other addictions. I for one ignore all the media driven, click baiting tragedies and causes and encourage everyone to help with real issues.

  17. Dr. C needs a long vacation and maybe a mileage run?? How many flights does he take yearly to harm our environment???

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