The 18-year-old Drexel University student in Philadelphia buys cheap tickets and takes “mileage runs” solely to build up frequent-flier account balances. Then, he cashes in the miles for expensive, far-flung journeys. Once there, he buys rail passes and catches the first train that comes along–doesn’t matter where it’s going–just to see some of the city. “It’s hard for me to stay home. I just want to go,” said Mr. Nguyen, who is from Seattle.
Mr. Nguyen is among a growing number of 20-somethings mastering the calculus of frequent-flier miles, making globe-trotting their hobby. It’s a generation that has grown up with airline deregulation, discount airlines, global airline alliances and “open skies” treaties that make flying between countries easier. They’re also at an age when they have time and flexible schedules. As a result, many have become ferocious travelers.