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

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As it is a very quiet week and I am out in Italy for a few days, I thought it was a good time to give this video another push.  I haven’t mentioned it for a couple of years – although it is permanently referenced in the sidebar on the desktop site – and 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 about 5-6 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 who do it. It primarily focuses on mileage running – taking very cheap or multi-segment flights on crazy routings in order to accumulate miles or status points very cheaply – rather than credit card churning, probably because it makes for better TV.

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 in the last couple of years 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.

British Airways tier point runs became less attractive with changes to how American Airlines treats domestic First Class and the 2015 changes to London City – New York JFK tier points.  There are still some good options though, such as the longer Club Europe routes which earn 160 tier points return and, of course, the good Qatar Airways sale deals to Asia which earn 560 tier points return.)

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, 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.

A planned feature length version of ‘Frequent Flyer’ which was the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign seems to have hit the buffers, which is shame.  Enjoy this 20 minute taster version.

PS.  Don’t forget the similar Radio 4 documentary, “Inside The World of the Frequent Flyer”, which was broadcast in March.  This benefits from focusing on the UK approach, whilst possibly suffering from having me in it!  The link to listen is here.

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  1. I KILL FOR AVIOS says:

    Yawn,yawn,it really is a slow day.

    What a time to be alive…..

    • Peter K says:

      I like slow days… Not that today is a slow day for me.

      • Peter:

        Just someone a little bored before going out to do their Iron Man training 🙂 .

        • Peter K says:

          Ha ha. The lull before the adrenaline high ????
          I was at a weekend convention. Early finish today at 3.50 ????

    • It’s a cool video though 🙂

      • It is and you’re right very well shot. Also shows how much more lucrative and easier it is to accrue miles in the US!

  2. Thanks .. loved that 🙂

    OT how long does it take for a Lloyds Avios upgrade voucher to be awarded once you hit the £7k spend? Also where do you go to see it? Is it – statement – vouchers? I believe I met minimum spend 6 days ago and nothing is in there, thanks for any help 🙂

    • Andrew* says:

      You’ll get an email from Avios…

    • It’s generated with your next statement – I completed the spend in July, just missed the statement for that month and the voucher appeared 4 weeks later.

      • I’ve never had an email from avios about it but it will be in the “My Vouchers” section of During a recent conversation with, I was told that vouchers will stay there (i.e. not move to your BA account) and will use your avios from your BA account to make your booking. I just hope that works!

        • Thanks everyone, my statement was yesterday and no voucher, so hopefully next month, will keep checking vouchers section too.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          It’s not tied to your statement date, and you may or may not get an email, you may or may not also get something in the post. However, it will randomly appear in your account around a month after you hit the £7k.

          I got a letter early last year for my 16-17 voucher, an email in April for my 17-18 voucher, and nothing in July for my 18-19 voucher (but the latter has appeared in my account, alongside the 17-18, the 16-17 being long since used – I made a special effort to trigger the 18-19 voucher quickly after the anniversary, given the forthcoming changes we all knew were going to happen sooner or later).

    • The Original Nick says:

      AwardWallet picks the vouchers up.

  3. FlyUpTop says:

    It’s a great video, worth a watch especially when he talks of being investigated by the Fed’s suspected of some illegal activity.

  4. Finally watched it, they are some super obsessed people out there, just to get the miles. I can see the point of chasing to status due to the double miles etc, but something like that on BA here would cost a small fortune and you need to fly a lot work I reckon. Very hard to do in your spare time with a young family.

    • Depends – with the run to Tallin a year or so ago, you got 200TP for one day out. That’s doable. And at c£200 it was a bargain TP/£. WiFi on the A350 too 😉

  5. OT – at the beginning of the year there were rumours that Cathay Pacific would pull out of OneWorld in favour of the Star Alliance. On the BA Executive Club Website there is loads of availability for CC flights to and from HongKong to numerous destinations up to and including 16th November 2018. From 17th November – ZILCH. Should we be expecting an imminent announcement about Cathay’s Departure from OneWorldmfrom 17th November?

  6. CC should be CX flights (adjacent on keyboard)

  7. Rob,
    I’m one of the crazy travelers featured in the video. I agree wholeheartedly that Gabriel did an excellent job with the video. Belkin’s Thai rice farmer story will go down as the best ever.

    The video is actually quite a bit older than 5 or 6 years. Large chunks of it were shot at a FlyerTalk moderator workshop in Orlando. I’d guess it was probably around 2004 or 2005. But, I wouldn’t swear by that.

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