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A Travel Hack Beloved By Airline Passengers Nationwide Is On Its Way Out The traditional "mileage run" may become obsolete as airlines pivot toward rewarding spending over miles flown.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • For years, frequent flyers have used mileage runs to unlock benefits like seat upgrades and lounge access.
  • But many major airlines, including American and JetBlue, are leaving that model behind.

The once-fervent annual practice known as the mileage run, where travel enthusiasts strategically fly to accrue airline miles for elite status before the year's end, might not be around much longer.

For years, those mileage runs allowed air travelers to secure elite status for the next year and unlock practical benefits such as seat upgrades, lounge access and priority services. But now that's changing.

As 2023 draws to a close, many major airlines have shifted their loyalty programs to value dollars spent over distance flown, effectively altering the landscape of travel hacking, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Related: Business Travelers: Is Loyalty Dead?

American and JetBlue exclusively reward customer spending, per the outlet. And while United and Southwest still record the number of flights a customer takes, both primarily consider dollars spent for rewards.

At United, the fastest way to earn elite status is to buy more expensive tickets — and use the airline's credit cards, NerdWallet reported.

Delta Air Lines, once a holdout in the shift, faced backlash after it amended its SkyMiles program earlier this year, but then walked the decision back.

Related: 'This Is a Terrible Day': Delta, American Express Limiting Access to Sky Clubs, Customers Lament 'Brutal' and 'Outrageous' Changes

"No question, we probably went too far in doing that," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said at an event at the Rotary Club of Atlanta in September. "Our team wanted to rip the bandaid off and didn't want to have to keep going through this every year with changes and nickel-and-diming and whatnot, but I think we moved too fast."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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