This is the twenty-eighth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using the Great Circle Mapper.
Today Free First Class Next Month shifts to Cheap Economy Class Next Month because I’m going to let you in on the secret to the absolute cheapest paid travel around, the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Deals subforum.
FlyerTalk is an online forum. Its subforums have posts and information on every deal to get more miles, every frequent flier program, and every other possible aspect of travel and loyalty programs. It’s an incredible resource that I check every single day to learn more.
It also has subforums that deal with mileage running. Mileage running means flying for no other reasons than to earn miles that you can redeem for more expensive travel and to earn status to make flying more comfortable.
True mileage runners fly indirect, mainly domestic routes with as little time as possible at the destination in order to rack up miles and airline status. They use the status for upgrades and the miles for international first class trips.
I have never and probably will never mileage run. Why? I think it’s a bad deal for me when I factor in how much I value the time I’d be wasting flying to nowhere.
But I am very interested in the key component of mileage runs: cheap air fares. Those cheap air fares are collected and posted by mileage runners in the Mileage Run Deals subforum at FlyerTalk.
In the subforum, a typical thread title is:
UA: BOS-LAS $266 a/i RT (3.7 CPM)
Let’s walk through what this code means. The title begins with a two letter airline code. “UA” means United. You learned that in a recent post about airline codes. If you ever come across an unfamiliar code, you can reference that post or google the code followed by the word “airline.”
The second part is “BOS-LAS”, which is the airport codes of the origin and destination cities. In this case, Boston to Las Vegas. Again google can crack the airport codes if you can’t.
The next part is “$266 a/i RT.” a/i means all in, which is how the poster says that $266 is the price after all taxes and fees. RT means roundtrip. If it said OW, that would mean oneway.
The last part is 3.7 CPM or 3.7 cents per mile, which means if you divide the fare by the number of miles you’d earn with the most indirect routing, each mile would cost 3.7 cents.
I use the forum in two ways. The first way is to check it regularly when I know I need to make a trip between two cities. In October 2011, I decided to go to Atlanta March 7-11, 2012 for the ACC Basketball Tournament.
Knowing I wanted to make the trip, I always scanned for LAX-ATL deals on my daily trip to the forum. I struck gold and found the trip for $152 on United, which is an incredible deal for a transcontinental roundtrip and $150 less than I was willing to spend.
The second way is to spontaneously vacation. On my daily check I once found $170 roundtrip from LA to several countries in Central America I’d never visited. I immediately booked an open jaw into Guatemala and out of Honduras for a twelve day trip to three countries I’d always wanted to see.
One key thing to remember when you see a deal in the forum is that it will probably be gone very soon. If you want that fare, pull the trigger immediately before you lose your chance. This is especially true if the fare is a mistake fare, many multiples less than the fare normally costs.
Last year I booked a $230 mistake fare from LAX to Lima, which is normally about $1,000 by finding it on the forum and booking immediately.
Check the forum daily to save hundreds on trips you have to take and trips you’ve only ever dreamed of.