Friday, June 25, 2010

Up In The Air

I recently watched the movie "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, an HR consultant who's job is to fly all around the country and fire people. Ryan loves his on the wing lifestyle and the perqs he receives as a frequent flyer, particularly his accumulated frequent flyer miles. For Ryan, frequent flyer miles aren't something you cash in and treat yourself to a vacation with. They are for collecting and building to an ever higher total like trying to beat your high score in a video game. When he meets another frequent flyer mile junkie on the road and she asks him how many miles he has, he replies "Let's just say I have a number in mind, and I haven't hit it yet." That number, it turns out, is 10 million miles. When he finally reaches his goal he is told he is the youngest person to ever attain that status.

I started thinking about that and wondered just how long it would take for someone like George Clooney's character to fly 10 million miles. So I worked up a hypothetical itinerary for Ryan Bingham.

Let's assume he is based in New York, and being conscious of his company's bottom line, schedules his business so he isn't zig zagging across the continent every day, but instead tries to follow some semblance of the solution to the traveling salesman problem.

On Sunday night he flies out to Miami for his first appointment of the week Monday morning. Monday he flies to San Antonio for his next day of firing. Tuesday he takes off for Los Angeles, Wednesday he's off to Seattle, Thursday he catches a red-eye to Chicago, and Friday he's winging home for the weekend.

New York to Miami1086 miles
Miami to San Antonio1155
San Antonio to Los Angeles1210
LA to Seattle954
Seattle to Chicago1720
Chicago to New York733
TOTAL6858 miles

That's 6858 miles in one week. So how many weeks of this sample itinerary would it take to reach 10 million miles? 1,458 weeks or 27½ years! George Clooney is 49, and his character can probably be considered about the same age, so if Ryan Bingham joined the company when he graduated college at age 22, and flew an equivalent of the above itinerary every week of every year with no vacations, he could reach 10 million miles by age 49.

I'll leave the computation of the total cost to fly 10 million miles as an exercise for the reader.


JD said...

You forgot to post a Spoiler Alert!

D.N.H. said...

I don't think I spoiled anything. I only summarized the story premise. The mileage goal is only a minor detail in the overall plot.

Joseph Lamperth said...

While your sample itinerary shows actual "butt in seats" miles. But you must account for FF mileage bonus that you receive for just using the service and earn miles for using credit cards and stuff. My searchings have figured, using the continental OnePass mileage calculator, that the New York-Miami-San Antonio- LA- Seattle- Chicago-New York curcuit would net him 8,638 FF miles a week in flights alone. Not counting hotel stays and car rentals and meals all used with FF mileage credit cards. But using just flight mileage it would be 1,157 weeks equaling 22.2 years. Then if you add in credit card purchases this can easily be done in under 20 years.

Joseph Lamperth said...

P.S. as you earn miles your FF status goes you into better tiers and better bonuses on miles flown. The Elite status which is Continental's 2nd tier of FF status would net 12,955 miles for the circuit. making 673,660 miles a year which would speed up the process. then once you reach silver elite the bonuses go up and then there is a gold elite and then Platinum elite/Presidential elite. All these levels would make it quicker. doing it under 20 is unheard of considering to reach 10 million at a rate of 673,660 is only 14.8