Most business travellers spend more than enough time in the air to clock up frequent flyer points en masse. But there's a far more valuable coin of the corporate travel realm: a currency known as status.
Status is the real goal of the high flyers.
High flying hierarchy
Carrying that Gold or Platinum airline card in your pocket or purse unlocks perks such as access to the best airport lounges around the world; using the business class or first class checking desk and boarding lanes, even when you're in economy; and, at least in theory, faster delivery of your checked bags onto the luggage belt.
You'll also be higher in the pecking order for an upgrade, and can earn up to twice as many frequent flyer points on any given flight through a 'status bonus'.
But while frequent flyer points can be earned by clever use of your credit card, status is generally won only when you fly, by accruing enough status credits every 12 months.
(There are some exceptions: you can pick up 75 Qantas status credits with the American Express Ultimate card, and up to 120 Virgin Australia Velocity status credits a year through Coles Flybuys shopping.)
Keeping up with the credits
But what if your business travel habits change – a few less overseas trips, a few more flights in economy – and you're left shy of the necessary credits to keep that Gold or Platinum card for another year?
That's when you want to consider what the frequent flyers call a 'status run'. It's a flight – or even a series of flights – deliberately chosen to clock up the necessary number of status credits to bridge such a shortfall.
That can be as simple as a quick jaunt from Melbourne to Brisbane and back, if a relatively low number of status credits is all you need to retain that shiny card.
It doesn't need to be a flight purely for the sake of flying, although some people who love flying a bit too much – let's be charitable and call them 'wingnuts' – are happy to spend all weekend up in the air.
Status runs make the most sense if you can work them into your business schedule or turn them into a weekend away.
However, part of the formula for a smart status run includes finding the best fare – typically in business class, as this earns far more status credits than sitting in economy – so that it becomes a cost-effective exercise.
For example, you'll earn the same number of status credits flying from Sydney to Bali or Jakarta as you would to Singapore or Hong Kong.
But mid-week business class fares to Jakarta, as well as to Bali on selected days, are more than half the price of those to Hong Kong, getting down to around $2,200 return.
Aim for the (Platinum) stars
Those flights will net you 240 status credits, which for many travellers is sufficient to bridge the gap between Gold and Platinum status – and Platinum is the prized tier for most airlines, so it's one worth shooting for.
A more advanced strategy is to route a domestic or international flight via several cities, as each leg of the journey adds previous status credits to the overall tally.
This begins to move out of the realm of the time-strapped business traveller, however.
What seals the deal for status is when airlines offer a 'double status credit' promotion – a rare deal under which all flights booked and flown within a specific time earn twice the usual haul of credits.
Every trip counts
Suddenly even a few domestic flights begin to have real meaning. Your next business class trip to London lands you Gold from a standing start and gets you within easy reach of Platinum.
Qantas kicked off its annual double status credits deal last week, and in typical form it lasted for just five days (yes, it's gone now).
But when you see any such offer fire up, you'll want to be ready to pounce. Book your upcoming business trips, tally your status credits and consider if you need any extra flights to seal the Platinum deal.
During the Qantas promo period, crack travel agent Alicia Clark from TravelManagers nutted out some amazing multi-city status runs paired with low-cost business class fares to Jakarta, Bali, Christchurch and even Noumea, all of which were perfect for a Gold-lined getaway.
Many frequent flyers consider the status runs as closely-held secrets, but some I spoke with are more measured about the game.
The status quo
"I think status runs are weird" says Malcolm, from Hobart. "Even though I fly a lot and value my status, I would never spend hard cash just to maintain my status. Status serves me, not the other way round."
"There is absolutely nothing enjoyable about that type of pointless flying" agrees Paul Rogers, who regularly travels between Brisbane and Auckland, "which is why I prefer weekend getaways where possible."
"I'll certainly do a status run if it means retaining Gold with Qantas but it's never purely a status run, more a three, four or five day getaway where I'm taking advantage of a hotel or flight sale."
"Spending a long weekend in another country enjoying local food, wine and shopping, either on your own or with a friend or partner, is always going to be tantalising."
Another frequent flyer I know – Gwen, from Auckland – considers her trips across the pond to be as much a holiday as a way of strategically maintaining status for another year.
"I don't think I can be bothered spending more time in airports and planes than necessary" she says.
"I aim to hit status targets, and I believe in maximising things along the way so I don't run into an end of year panic and trying to do a last minute status run."
Does status matter more than the points? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.