While on the segment run I realized just how costly this hobby can be a why it is important to be mindful of incidental fees while trying to squeeze in those last few flights of the year to attain status.
Transportation and/or Parking
One of the most overlooked costs associated with Mileage Running (or Segment Running) is the cost of physically getting to the airport. As a Chicago based traveler cabs to Chicago O’hare can often run close to $50 each way! Uber is about half that price, but when you are trying to attain status for as cheaply as possible $25 each way just might ruin the economics of running.
Parking, especially for more than a few hours, can become significantly more expensive than taking two cabs. Many airports have economy lots which are further away from the terminals, but offer significantly cheaper hourly rates. When planning a status run it is important to research nearby parking facilities and rates.
Public transportation is a great option if the city you are in has it, but often taking public transportation adds an unreasonable amount of time to your trip.
Bottom line: Sure booking that insane segment run for just $100 ($50/segment is ideal) may seen like an incredible opportunity, but make sure to factor in the time and cost of getting to the airport when booking.
Food & Water
If there is on guarantee in life it is that food and bottled drinks are going to be incredibly overpriced once you clear security! If you are completing your run in a few hours total this might not be a big issue, but if you have a long layover you will definitely want something to eat or drink and these costs add up quickly!
One way to avoid this is to carry a credit card which offers lounge access at the airport you will be sitting in for a few hours. As I write this I am sitting in the Dallas / Fort Worth American Express Centurion Lounge with free dinner and alcoholic (and non-alcoholic?) beverage options. Food choices at Centurion Lounges are significantly better than those offered at Delta, American, or United lounges.
If it weren’t for the American Express Platinum card, which allowed me to get a free-ish dinner, I would have easily paid well over $10 for a fast food meal and probably about that same amount for a single beer. Again, if your goal is to attain status on the cheap, paying for food and drink at airport is not going to help your bottom line.
If you are traveling internationally it is imperative that you check the policies of the country you are stopping in for any fees associated with entering the country. For many countries this is not an issue, but especially when traveling to mainland China, if you have to leave the airport you may have to purchase a visa. Visa costs are not exactly cheap and if you do not have the proper credentials at the airport you may even be denied boarding.
Hotel fees ruin any great mileage run. Unless you are also trying to build in a Mattress Run for hotel status, staying at a hotel in-transit is the single largest expense many mileage runners do not incorporate into their overall cost. It may be possible to find very inexpensive hotels around the airport, but then you again have to consider the cost of traveling from the airport to the hotel and back. The key to any truly great mileage or status run is to not leave the airport and definitely not pay for nights at a hotel (unless you convince your significant other that its a vacation!).
Is Status Ultimately Worth It, To YOU!
Sure airline status carriers a certain level of bragging rights, but what are YOU really getting out of it? If you tend to fly just 10,000 miles a year and have to run for the other 15,000 to attain low level status you may be better off just booking a higher class of service on the 10,000 miles you actually fly. Likewise if you generally fly just 51,000 miles it may not make sense to complete status runs for the remaining 49,000 miles!
Personally, when planning this Segment Run I had a choice, sit back, relax, and pay American $400 outright to secure Gold Status for 2017 OR take a round trip flight to DFW for just $200. In the end it was more cost effective to take the flights, not to mention fun! I realize Gold status is not even that great, but the ability to pick Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats when traveling for business is important to ME so the status run was worth it.
Mileage or Segment Running is a great way to attain status if you are relatively close to the next level, but I often see FlyerTalk members asking how they can book a 40,000 mile mileage run to attain status. At that point I think it is important to step back and evaluate if the next tier really makes sense for you. Also, when planning a status run, it is important to factor the ancillary costs you may incur along the way. For this segment run had I paid for cabs to/from the airport ($100), Dinner (~$30), and a drink ($10) it may have made more sense for me to just pay American directly to achieve Gold Status.
That being said I love flying for the sake of flying and always enjoy a good excuse to visit an American Express Centurion Lounge