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January 8, 2007 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Can airline miles be gifted to a charity cause or person?

This new years, I had friends from NYC visiting me in SF. New Year's Day my friend suffered from an aneurysm due to a rare genetic condition called Moyamoya. She is currently in a coma at SF General and needless to say this has been extra difficult due to the distance she is from her family.

She has not woken up yet and I am guessing she will not be moving any time soon. We are doing as much as we can on both coast to fundraise for airfair, car rentals, meals etc. for her family but we were thinking it would be extra helpful if there was an easy way that people could donate any travel miles they may have accumulated.

Is this possible, does anyone have any experience with this? Also, any other creative fundraising ideas are appreciated.
posted by lannanh to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by trevyn at 5:08 PM on January 8, 2007

I tried to do this at XMas for my parents, I wanted to give them like 20K of my miles, and the airline was going to charge me something like $50/5000K miles - basically, it would have cost me over $100 to give them the miles. Buttholes.

Well, anyway, yeah, you can, it'll just cost you.
posted by tristeza at 5:25 PM on January 8, 2007

Can airline miles be gifted to a charity cause or person?

As tristeza said, the airlines treat mileage transfers as an additional chance to get cash from you to use their less reliably valuable scrip.

They can be given to a charitable cause for free, but not your charitable cause. Many airlines have their own charitable causes that they are happy to let you donate miles too (the airline gets all the PR credit, of course).
posted by grouse at 5:41 PM on January 8, 2007

My dad transferred some of his miles (Malaysian Airlines' Enrich) to me to upgrade me to First Class; asking my mum, she says that there's probably a small fee, but if you have enough points, those points should be able to cover you.

posted by divabat at 5:54 PM on January 8, 2007

While the airlines will gouge you to transfer the miles themselves, they won't prevent you from using your miles to get a ticket for someone else (and then giving them the ticket).

Sorry to hear about your friend.
posted by toxic at 5:58 PM on January 8, 2007

they won't prevent you from using your miles to get a ticket for someone else (and then giving them the ticket).

Yes, but someone will need to have all the miles necessary to purchase a ticket in one account already. Don't forget that there will also be taxes and fees.
posted by grouse at 7:18 PM on January 8, 2007

Call the airline. Explain the situation. Have some documentation ready. You might get lucky and have the charge waived.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:34 PM on January 8, 2007

And an old trick. When you talk to CS, if you don't get the answer you like, call back. You'll get a different rep.

Also -- you want the person with the most status to call. Uncle Bob who flies WN once a year? No. Uncle Jim, who scores 100K on AA every year? Much better. The official policy is "no waivers, no favors", but the top tiers get breaks.

With the fee to transfer (which is better than what it use to be, which is no transfers ever) the trick is to move as few miles as possible -- if you need 25K, don't move 20K to a 5K account, move the 5K over to the 20K.

Finally, in terms of money, watch for the weekend fares (AA calls them NetSavers). They're limited, usually to Friday Night/Sat Morn departures, Monday/Tuesday returns, but they can be a tremendous break over the normal cost of a transcon bought three-four days before flight -- I've seen $178 base fares for LAX/OAK/SFO to JFK/EWR.

Most airlines had them on the back burner during the holidays, but they should come back tomorrow -- Tuesday being the day that AA, WN and UA release them (most of the other either release late Tuesday or early Wednesday.)
posted by eriko at 8:14 PM on January 8, 2007

via Make a Wish Foundation:

Thanks to the generosity of Alaska Airlines, a special Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account has been established for the exclusive use of our chapter. For every 40,000 miles donated by supporters, the Foundation will be able to claim a ticket valid for flight anywhere Alaska Airlines or Horizon Airlines flies. Considering that these miles help reduce the costs of our most expensive tickets, your donation can make a huge impact on the Foundation's ability to grant wishes. To donate your miles, tgo the Alaska Airlines' Charity Miles web page and click "Donate Miles." Once you sign in, you can chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alaska, Montana, Northern Idaho & Washington as the beneficiary of your donation.

There are several charities you can choose to donate to once you go to the link.
posted by ASM at 1:15 AM on January 9, 2007

Sorry, should have read the entire post.
posted by ASM at 1:16 AM on January 9, 2007

Last month I got an email from USAirways. In order to keep my miles alive (I used to travel quite a bit on business, haven't done so lately) I could take a trip, use some miles, give them money or donate miles to charity. i gave some miles to Make-A-Wish. Win-win My account is alive and they got some miles.
posted by fixedgear at 8:22 AM on January 9, 2007

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