‘Frequent Flyer – The Video’ – why we do what we do

Here is something a bit different for New Year’s Day – hopefully you may have 20 minutes spare today to enjoy it.

If you’ve never seen “Frequent Flyer – The Video”, then you really should. It has been 3-4 years since Gabriel Leigh made it, I think as a graduation project in the US, but it remains a fantastic piece of work.

It is a 20 minute piece about collecting airline miles, in particular the people (like us!) who do it. It primarily focusses on mileage running – taking very cheap or multi-segment flights on crazy routings in order to accumulate miles or status points very cheaply.

This practice has historically been very popular in the US because of the ability to turn a New York to San Francisco flight into an 8-segment marathon, on the same airline.  It has become less common recently as the major airlines brought in spend targets as well as mileage targets to retain status.

(In Europe a mileage run is a lot more difficult because of the number of different airlines – the best you might manage is, potentially, flying London to Zurich to Frankfurt instead of London to Frankfurt, in order to add an extra Star Alliance flight segment or some extra miles.  Some people, of course, have been using the current BA fare sales to create incredibly complex routing to Hawaii that earn over 1,000 tier points on a £1,100 fare.)

Frequent Flyer The Video

Anyway, back to the video. The production quality is outstanding, as good as any documentary made for the cinema. Randy Petersen, founder of Flyertalk and Milepoint, is featured, as are some other regular Flyertalk posters, albeit under their real names. It includes a segment with Steve ‘Beaubo’ Belkin, talking about how he infamously hired disabled Thai rice farmers to fly between Bangkok to Chiang Mai all day, every day, in order to take huge advantage of a Star Alliance promotion! (Belkin is the first person you see talking when the video starts, Petersen is second.)

The link to the video is here on Vimeo if it is not showing above. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again – it is worth it for the quality of the film making alone.

The good news is that Leigh is now working on a feature length version of ‘Frequent Flyer’ for release in a year or so. Enjoy.

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  1. I love this video. I always watch it when I’m grounded for a time. It is superb.

  2. Mikeact says:

    I’ve watched it a couple of times since it was first released…excellent.
    I was fortunate enough to be living and working in the US when AA announced the very first program.At one stage I had every FFP membership going, as the rewards were ridiculous based on the also ridiculous earning rates..serious competition in those days ! eg Northwest offered quad miles to Japan ‘down the back’, free hotel once there, but, you also flew ‘up front’ if you had Gold which was a no brainer.Ah, the good old days !

  3. Stephan says:

    I’d be curious on how the weigh out the cost-benefit analysis of chasing the miles.

    • There is the direct return, ie it earns x,000 miles and you value those at 1p.

      However, US airlines work differently to Euro ones. ALL first and business class seats are filled by upgrading the highest status economy passengers. European airlines prefer to leave seats empty rather than upgrade unless they have oversold. Status is far more important because at the top tier you are upgraded most of the time. BA will never upgrade a Gold just because there is a spare seat up front.

  4. Hiltonhotelfans says:

    Saw this video. Great that we are not alone. ..

  5. Those men must either be single or have very understanding partners !!

    • I too love this.regarding your question/statement i think all our girlfriends/wives love to fly business/first so they must not complain! And this is an interest/hobby and has a curious background in our minds so that must be respected! Then maybe not everyobe can underdtand the psychotic Tesco trip or routing or online shopping which is apparently unuseful or not necessary in that very moment. But this is what we like to do and let us do that!! Happy new collection Year to all of us!!

  6. Murray Stewart says:

    Great. Please keep me informed.