Having recently applied for the Hyatt Diamond Challenge, I have been doing a little mattress running to reach the required nights. This is the first time I have done mattress running for status, though I have done my share of mileage running for airline status in the past. Here is my perception of the two and which I prefer.
Mattress Running vs. Mileage Running
For those not familiar with the concept of mattress or mileage running, here is a little bit of info about each.
Mattress running is the practice of booking hotel stays for the main purpose of achieving points or stays towards bonuses (like the IHG targeted bonuses last year) or towards elite status. With mattress running, it is not even required that you stay in the hotel – you just need to check-in. Mattress running is done by booking hotels at cheap rates that allow for point accrual or elite credit.
In my case, mattress running is for achieving the completion of my Hyatt Diamond Challenge. For more information on the Hyatt Diamond Challenge, check out this previous post. To achieve Hyatt Diamond, you will need to stay for a total of 12 nights at Hyatt hotels in a 60 day period. Hyatt Diamond has some very valuable perks, the ones that stand out the most to me are: free breakfast, 4 annual suite upgrades, 4PM late checkout, and Diamond amenity (I like the 1,000 point amenity).
In general, it does not make sense to do a lot of mattress running for elite status, unless you are in the middle of a trial or challenge. The reason is that the number of nights required for top-tier elite status is quite high and most hotels will let you receive mid-tier status through the possession of a credit card (check out this post for details on how to obtain mid-tier status). One of the only reasons you would do mattress running for elite status (outside of a trial or challenge) is if your regular hotel stay pattern leaves you just a few nights short of the top-tier level. Otherwise, to start from nothing to race for top-tier and doing it with only mattress running is not a good idea.
Mileage running is the practice of flying simply to earn miles. Some people do it to earn redeemable miles, but the bulk of the people that do it are trying to earn the valuable elite miles that count towards elite status.
Airline elite status is something that many people work hard to earn or to upgrade. Elite status used to be mainly about the upgrades on domestic flights. Example: If you travel a lot for work, but not enough to hit a higher tier of elite status, you may find a mileage run or two is helpful to push you over that next tier to help you achieve more business class/first class upgrades when traveling for work. You are basically exchanging some money and time for a more enjoyable travel experience throughout the year. However, with the rise of elite customers due to things such as airline mergers, bonus elite mile promos, credit card spending incentives, etc. it is harder to score an upgrade to first class as a lower tier elite customer (depending, of course, on the fare class of your ticket and the routes you fly). For myself and many others, elite status is becoming more about keeping overall fees down (such as certain ticketing charges, baggage fees, seat selection fees, award fees, etc) and being able to reach customer service representatives quicker in times of airline delays than the upgrades. I have mid/top-tier elite status with airlines in each of the main three alliances (Oneworld Alliance, Skyteam Alliance, and Star Alliance). This enables me to at least get free bags when flying on any airline within those alliances. This helps me not to have to stay loyal to one airline but gives me the opportunity to shop by ticket price while still enjoying things such as elite check-in, priority boarding, waived baggage fees and an improved customer service experience.
Mileage running is becoming more impractical as time goes by since it is very easy to earn a lot of miles through credit card bonuses and spending. Probably the only airline worth doing any type of serious mileage running on is American Airlines because of their valuable 8 upgrade certificates that can be applied to the cheapest coach ticket to upgrade to business (or to a business ticket to upgrade to first). If you highly value elite status and your travel pattern leaves you a little bit short of the next tier (with any airline), than a mileage run would make sense. But, as with hotels, to start from nothing to achieve status through mileage running costs a lot of money for very little value. If you instead spent that money on tickets that you would use the award miles for (or for fees that the status would waive on award tickets), then you would still probably come out ahead over mileage running. This is especially true for the low-tier status since you benefit very little over the member that has an airline co-branded credit card.
Probably the best status to try mileage running to earn would be the Aegean Airlines Gold to achieve long-term Star Alliance Gold status. To read about this method of achieving Star Alliance Gold, check this previous post. To read about my mileage run to earn Star Gold, check out this post.
Comparing the two
Now that I have done some mattress running, I have a feeling more about it and how I like or dislike it. Having done quite a bit of mileage running in years past (on some great fares years ago, I did back-to-back-to-back Pittsburgh – Seattle trips and back-to-back Pittsburgh – Sydney trip, to name a few), I know about that side of status running as well. And I actually have a clear (personal) winner between the two!
Believe it or not, I really now prefer mattress running to mileage running. Yes, I love the whole airplane/airport experience. I like the upgrades and the quiet time to work. But, I hate the time constraints I have always been under to just be able to land and then return. I also hate traveling without my family – especially when it is just to earn miles. I have not really done a mileage run in over a year because almost all of my travel has been on award miles and I really have all the airline status I need at this time.
When it comes to mattress running, I really like it! To get credit for the night, you do not really need to stay at the hotel, so it is possible to just book local hotels and check-in and be done. But, with local mattress running, it is possible to have my family be with me (I have taken one of my sons on one night and my daughter on another night for a nice mini-vacation), unlike on mileage runs. Plus, instead of sitting on an airplane seat for several hours (and sometimes over night), I can actually sleep in a really nice bed – and still earn points! I don’t care how nice of an airplane seat you have for your mileage run, it cannot beat laying in a hotel bed!
Another point in favor of mattress running is the free breakfasts I get as a Hyatt Diamond. Again, I don’t care how nice of a meal I have received on airline mileage runs in first class (domestic upgrade), they cannot beat the great breakfasts I have had at Hyatt hotels in my mattress runs. When it comes to stretching out, I have access to a very nice fitness center at hotels while the most exercise I will get on a mileage run is running between gates. And one more thing that comes into play is that I can redeem my suite upgrades for a much larger room on mattress runs. If I redeem an upgrade certificate/miles for a mileage run, I am only getting a bigger seat with extra padding and more recline.
What is your preference?
But all of that is me – everyone has different mile and point goals. What is your preference between the two? Or would you never participate in either activity? The truth is that you can turn either endeavor in a vacation of sorts in an interesting place, so you can have an enjoyable side to the whole experience. Is that something you have done?