I fly a lot and have frequent flyer memberships with almost every U.S. airline and a few international carriers, but the process of redeeming my points for award travel is usually maddening and mind-numbing.
Between black-out dates, service fees, and multi-layover itineraries, I rarely use the points for award travel, and often wonder why I even bother to maintain these frequent flyer accounts.
Increasingly, airlines are offering ways to redeem frequent flyer miles (or kilometers) for other aspects of travel–lodging, car rentals– and even for magazine subscriptions.
Many airlines also offer numerous options for frequent flyers who want to donate their miles to a good cause. Here’s a comprehensive list of 109 ways to use your frequent flyer miles for good. The airlines included on this list are major carriers in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and South America. Future articles will cover the rest of the world’s major airlines.
AirTran’s A+ Rewards program supports military leave programs and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Full details can be obtained by calling AirTran at 1-800-247-8726.
If you have miles with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan, now would be an exceptional time to donate them. Between now and February 15, the airline is matching all donated miles mile for mile, and is giving these miles to charities working in Haiti.
Eight other charities receive miles from frequent flyers of Alaska Airlines; these include: Angel Flight West (providing transportation for medical patients); Dream Foundation (providing transportation for terminally ill patients and their families); Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Foundation; Hero Miles (providing transportation for military service people injured in war); The Make-a-Wish Foundation; Medical Teams International; The National Forest Foundation; and The Nature Conservancy.
Operation Hero Miles helps members of the U.S. armed forces who have been injured or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan by providing travel for families of these service men and women to visit their loved one being treated for injury at military hospitals around the globe.
Continental’s OnePass program allows frequent flyers to donate miles to one of 14 charities, including: March of Dimes, Dream Foundation, M.D. Anderson (a cancer research center); UCP Wheels for Humanity; Golfers Against Cancer; The Ayuda Foundation; The Cleveland Clinic; CAREFORCE; the Make-a-Wish Foundation of America and Make-a-Wish Foundation International; AmeriCares; Healing the Children; the American Red Cross; and the Fisher House Foundation.
Frontier’s frequent flyer program, Early Returns, prefers that members donate miles in 1,000 mile increments to support one of five charities: The Fisher House Foundation, The Make-a-Wish Foundation of Colorado, Adoption Exchange, The Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, and the El Jebel Shrine.
At present, JetBlue’s “True Blue” frequent flyer program has no partnerships established that allow donation of miles.
United’s Mileage Plus program makes donating miles easy, using a simple online form.
With 27 options, you can support a cause you care about.
US Airways offers five miles donation opportunities through its Dividend Miles program, including: Miles of Hope; the American Red Cross; Fisher House Foundation; the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Mercy Medical Airlift.
Eight other charities are partner organizations that accept donation of miles; these include Earth Day Canada, Engineers Without Borders, Kids’ Horizons, Doctors Without Borders, Schools Without Borders, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Veterinarians Without Borders, and War Child Canada. You can choose which organization receives your miles.
In addition, you can choose to earmark your donated miles for Aeroplan’s carbon emissions offset program through Air Canada’s Green It Up initiative.
AeroMexico’s Club Premiere offers award travel and redemption of miles for loyalty partners’ services, and does not facilitate charity donations at present.
Mexicana’s Frecuenta program allows use of miles only for award flights or stays with hotel partners.
South American Airlines
Avianca’s Avianca PLUS program allows frequent f;yers to donate their miles to a children’s charity; however, the charity is not named on its website.
Copa’s program, OnePass, offers 14 ways to donate miles.
LAN’s frequent flyer program, LANPASS, does not allow redemption of miles for anything other than award travel.
At present, Varig’s “SMILES” program does not allow redemption of miles for anything other than award travel.