Maximize Your Miles by Flying Extra Legs?

by Michael on Nov 4, 2013 · 4 comments

Image of a Worldwide Airline Map

While sitting down to make some work-related travel arrangements, it dawned on me that I’ve been leaving miles on the table.

When making plans, I typically seek out the shortest and most direct flights. I do this in part for efficiency but also because I’m tall and coach seats aren’t particularly comfortable.

But now that I have Platinum Medallion status, I get upgraded more often than not, and I’ve found that I can get a ton of work done while sitting in First Class.

Honestly, I think I’m more productive during a few hours sitting up front on a plane than I am during a few hours sitting at my desk. So that got me to thinking…

Maximizing miles

When traveling for work, why not consider booking a longer itinerary?

Assuming that I get upgraded, even long(ish) flights are reasonably comfortable. And if I don’t happen to get upgraded, I’ll still be sitting in an exit row or Economy Comfort seat with plenty of legroom, so it’s not too bad.

As for the layovers, I have ready access to Delta SkyClubs so, as long as I’m connecting through an airport with a club, it’s all good.

Why bother? For the miles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mile-collecting madman like some people out there. But I do enjoy the perks that come with elite status — particularly those free upgrades, which make traveling so much more pleasant.

Given the above, I’m mostly interested in maximizing my Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs). These are the “butt-in-seat” miles that count toward elite status, and which are much harder to come by through other (non-flying) channels.

Don’t get me wrong, redeemable miles have some value in their own right, but I actually have plenty of those for our needs. For that, I can thank both the fact that I earn 2x miles when flying (thanks to my status) and our Amex Delta Reserve card.

Worth the trouble?

So, when flying cross country, should I book a direct flight from (say) Atlanta to San Diego, or should I consider booking a connection through Seattle or New York?

Sure, the extra connection adds to the travel time, but it also tacks on an extra 1300 miles in each direction. That’s an extra 2600 MQMs on the round-trip, plus 5200 redeemable miles thanks to the 100% mileage bonus for Platinum flyers.

Worth it? I’m not so sure. Perhaps on the outbound flight, since I’d still be arriving at a reasonable (local) hour. But when heading back home from west to east, I’d be touching down relatively late even if I took off at dark thirty in the morning.


1 Money Beagle November 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

I guess what it would boil down to would be whether the extra time and inconvenience would be worth it. The answer for most would probably be different given that everybody has unique needs and likely different opportunities to do what you’re suggesting that would result in varying impact.

2 Tie the Money Knot November 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

This actually makes sense, even if most others would dislike flying more. Even in coach, I can get a ton done if nobody is sitting next to me and I have space. Have to be in the aisle seat. It’s hard to find a situation where I can be more productive…I think it’s the realization that you can’t go anywhere, and the white noise of flying is in the background.

3 krantcents November 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm

When I traveled, I logged considerable miles. An extra leg would have meant too much lost time. I logged nearly 50K miles in less than 6 months.

4 SuburbanFinance November 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Oh man, I don’t know if I could justify the miles. I really, really hate travelling (I like the actual being at the destination part, just not the getting there part) and I couldn’t imagine being stuck on a plane for longer than necessary. But that is a lot of miles..

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