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

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As it is a Bank Holiday today, I thought it was a good time to give this excellent video another push.  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 7-8 years since Gabriel Leigh made it, I think as a graduation project in the US, but it remains a high quality 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 was always 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 are trickier to do these days.  There are still some good options, such as the longer Club Europe routes which earn 160 tier points return and, of course, the good Qatar Airways business class sale deals to Asia which earn 560 tier points return (4 x 140 point segments.)

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 hit the buffers, which was shame.  Enjoy this 20 minute taster version.  There is a Netflix film on a similar topic due for release at some point this year.

PS.  Don’t forget the similar Radio 4 documentary, “Inside The World of the Frequent Flyer”, which was broadcast in 2018 and is still available.  This benefits from focusing on the UK approach, whilst possibly suffering from having me in it.  The link to listen is here.

Comments (8)

  • Peter K says:

    For all the times you’ve had this on I’ve only just watched it today. Very enjoyable.

  • Concerto says:

    Hadn’t seen this before, really good, thanks very much. I wonder how those guys are coping at the moment.

    • Bootlace says:

      I think the tone of the radio piece is long pisstake of frequented flyers IMHO.

  • Baresi says:

    Enjoyed the vid and the Radio 4 doc 👍how times have changed now!

  • Lady London says:

    Ha. I liked the white-outlined “spook” reaching out of the blackness, snatching the miles and slamming a door shut with a sign saying “expired” on it. I’ll swear it had the Lufthansa flag on its back:-).

    Also Hitchcock-type film technique where early on, we saw a runner under a plane almost trying to catch up with it. Wonder if Gabriel is still a frequent flier? It felt very much kind of a frequent flier’s “Mad Men” in a past in era.

    • Rob says:

      Gabriel now writes about travel for Monocle magazine.

      He was at a press event I was at last year but I never had time to speak to him.

  • guesswho2000 says:

    I’ve watched this a few times over the years and just watched it again, every time it reminds me why I love this game!

  • vinz says:

    Very interesting! But I would never do that… I’d rather earn my miles for free by playing with cards, shopping online etc

    Is there a way to find out how many miles I’ve earned in my entire “life” with BA? Is there a calculator somewhere?

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