‘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.
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.)
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.