Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘Frequent Flyer – The Video’ – the best 20 minute film ever made about air miles

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As it is a quiet Bank Holiday Monday 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 over a decade now 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.

Frequent Flyer The Video

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, Qatar Airways business class flights to Asia which earn 560 tier points return (4 x 140 point segments.)

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, author of the ‘Mileage Maniac’ book we reviewed recently.  He talks 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 (you will need to register with Vimeo first). 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.  Leigh is now based in Sweden and works for Flightradar24, as well as a transport correspondent for Monocle.

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 (17)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Vit says:

    Thanks Rob. I only start the amex ba avios game in 2016. Knowing nothing about this site until 2019 where I started learning from you and rest of HfPers. I am merely a BA and SAS Silver, but sitting here on a boat, planning carefully, knowing that I could achieve BA and SAS Gold with upcoming work trips. As mentioned in the video, this is rather addicted and I am curious what is going to happen long term… from life to tax point of view… Will we be taxed for this as part of the benefit you get from your employer? I know it has been discussed greatly in this forum… All I know for now, it allows me to go places I would not have gone and more importantly visiting families in Asia in a more comfortable ways.

    • lumma says:

      Think I started on this site in 2015, shortly after I dropped around 40k avios on two returns to Amsterdam from LCY, with the outbound in business…..

      • Vit says:

        Ouch! That’s some lessons learned there. Mine was spending avios on inflight BA catering. So silly when I looked back but I did enjoy my beer! 😀

        But on a more serious note, we could have accrued much more avios between 2016 – 2019 with our spendings if I’d known about this site earlier. There’s always hindsight.

  • Travelbloggerbuzz says:

    Passing on watching it again Rob 😀

    • The Original Nick says:

      There’s nothing wrong with watching it again!

  • Thomas says:

    Any hints on accruing 840 tier points before 8th June? I’m looking for your weird and wonderful ideas, hints, tips, routes etc. Thx

    • Rob says:

      Either a convoluted long-haul route to Hawaii from somewhere in Europe (but good luck finding a decent fare at this time of year) or get into the BA Holidays double tier points offer. 2 x BA Holidays holidays on a 160 TP route and 1 x BA Holidays trip on an 80 TP route nearly does it BUT those need, by default, 15 nights to complete so looking unlikely unless you literally have nothing else to do before 8 June.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      840? I assume thats to get you from silver to gold?

      First thing I’d do is work out what benefits of gold you expect to accrue over and above silver and then calculate the cost of getting those 840 points.

      And then decide if the benefits outweigh the costs.

      It’s a lot of flying to get them plus a lot of money (unlikly to be any cheap flights this close in to 8th june) and both uselesly spent if you don’t do the flying to use the benefits.

      If you needed 90 points for gold I’d have said go for it but you need almost 10 times that.

      Also you’d only have those gold benefits until July 2024 so another reason to carefully consider.

      • Rob says:

        Fair point – perhaps more value in planning to get 1500 quickly in the new year to get 2 years of Gold.

    • dougzz99 says:

      Totally with BAFIHGS here. Assuming you’ve earned 660TP organically in near a year, it suggests your flying is relatively limited. Attempting to get 840 in less than 5 weeks will be very expensive. Ex-EU to west coast would get 720, so it’s crazy expensive Hawaii, or double TP holiday. If you did LHR-JFK-LAX in first with a hotel or car for 5 nights you’d be looking at 1680TP, but I’m guessing the cost would be in the £10K+ ballpark. You’d have to really want that Gold card. If money is less important just fly first and get all the flight related benefits of Gold.

      You’d be much better planning this for your next TP year. Look at 90 or 120 day advance purchase fares from ex-EU locations, and/or double TP holiday later in the year.

  • Panda Mick says:

    LHR to Milan with AF, then MXP to barcelona with SQ return then MXP back to blighty net’s you a whopping 2/5ths of the tier points needed for VS Gold 🙂

    But the best is still the single trip from HEL to Hawaii which used to net you Gold (or whatever flavour is top tier) with BA 🙂

  • travelwell says:

    I’m assuming you’d rate Clooney’s Up in the air’ a close second to this? 🙂

  • Mikeact says:

    Happy Memories…living in the US in the 80’s. Clocking up tons of miles on numerous convoluted routes to get maximum miles. Mileage runs to Europe and S America…seemed my second home was MSP airport….any spare day/s, up and away.
    Still reaping the benefits today with enough miles in the bank to happily keep us going.
    The big difference today is that in those days free flights were free flights and many free upgrades to go with them on a space available basis.

    • polly says:

      Mine was DFW. Was one of the 1st group of AAdvantage people signed up when l lived in Dallas. When MBNA did that great sign up years ago, one of the AA csa reminded me l was already a member. Had long forgotten my details… went to a different state every month, unreal. But it was an effort, and a very different programme then. Flights were really free. Long disappeared concept in our hobby now. No linked card either. Purely earned on flights. Finding hfp in 2012 was mannah from heaven. Tnx Rob and co… think my first card was a BAPP. And Lloyds, that crazy zillion mile sign up, great fun.

  • His Holyness says:

    I saw Club Aspire had won a Head for Points award at Gatwick…prominently displayed on the desk, but its a dump! Our Lab would turn her nose up at those offerings.

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