Miles (or points) are a perk of frequent travel and can be redeemed on future flights, upgrades, experiences, merchandise, car hire, accommodation and so on.
But sometimes it’s hard to spend them – air tickets may be restricted by time and destination, for instance – and travellers can instead make a difference by donating them to non-profit organisations and charities around the world.
Here are some schemes that allow travellers to donate miles to charities. We will keep updating this but if you know of more, let us know.
1. Air France and KLM
Flying Blue, Air France and KLM’s frequent flyer programme, has selected 21 charities to which its members may donate miles. Charities include Aviation Sans Frontières, which provides air transport to European hospitals for children with serious illnesses, the French Red Cross and WWF.
2. Alaska Airlines
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan programme offers members the chance to support 13 selected charities through donating miles – these include Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool, the Nature Conservancy and Make a Wish International.
3. American Airlines
The AAdvantage programme focuses on four types of charitable organisations – those that work to support social good, global health and wellbeing, heroes, or the planet. A minimum of 1,000 miles is required, though members with a balance of less than this can donate their entire balance. Charities include Unicef, Stand Up To Cancer and the Gary Sinise Foundation.
4. Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss
Miles and More, the frequent flyer programme for these airlines, has partnered with Help Alliance, which supports more than 40 projects worldwide. Members can make a free donation between 3,000 and 50,000 miles which is then allocated to the project most in need, or you can choose to support a specific cause. Examples include providing basic medical care for a family in Africa for a year, and educational provision for three children in South America for six months.
5. Cathay Pacific
Flyers who earn Asia Miles when flying with Cathay Pacific and partner airlines can now donate to charities such as Unicef HK and KELY Support Group. Asia Miles can also be contributed to FLY greener, a programme that allows you to offset your CO2 emission from your flights.
6. Delta Air Lines
Through Delta’s Sky Miles, travellers can donate to 15 participating charities. You can browse these by region – US, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, and Europe, Middle East & Africa. In EMEA these charities are Unicef, Habitat for Humanity, Make a Wish International and Junior Achievement Worldwide. Up to five charities can be processed in one transaction.
8. Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways’ reward programme Etihad Guest sponsors a diverse range of charity organisations including the Emirates Red Crescent Authority’s The Reach Campaign, which focuses on providing the medicine and treatment to protect families from river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, Solar Buddy which designs solar light solutions for at-risk communities, and UNHCR which is providing support to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
Travellers can donate up to 111,120 miles. Since the initiative began in 2007, over 250 million miles have been donated.
10. Frontier Airlines
This carrier partners with six foundations as part of the My Frontier programme. Miles can be donated to Austin Pets Alive!, which flies programme managers to communities across the US to rescue homeless pets, and Shriners Hospital, which uses the miles to fly patients and their guardian to one of their hospitals for treatment.
11. Garuda Indonesia
The airline partners with Indonesia Mengajar to promote education across the country, and Kitabisa which helps provide flight services for volunteers, health workers and underprivileged patients to accelerate health care across Indonesia. Travellers can donate 100 to 50,000 miles by emailing [email protected].
12. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Miles allows members to donate miles to 14 local non-profit organisations. At the end of each year, the airline promises to match up to 500,000 miles to each participating charity. Charities include Blood Bank of Hawaii, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, and Friends of Hokulea and Hawaiiloa, which helps to maintain canoe building skills. Donations begin at 50 miles.
Iberia Plus members can donate Avios to 10 charity partners including Fundacion Aladina, which helps children and teenagers with cancer, and Fundacion Integra, which supports the inclusion of disadvantaged people in the labour market.
The airline’s True Blue programme gives members the opportunity to contribute a minimum of 500 points to 24 charities. Organisations include Save the Music Foundation, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and Concern Worldwide.
15. Singapore Airlines
17. United Airlines
Miles earned through the Mileage Plus programme can be donated to charities through the Miles on a Mission programme. United has partnered with 23 charities such as Airlink Flight, a rapid-response disaster relief organisation, and Dream Foundation, which fulfils final dreams for terminally-ill adults.
The programme usually has a number of active campaigns that you can donate a minimum of 1,000 miles to – if the campaign doesn’t reach its goal within the campaign period, these will be returned to you. There are currently no active running campaigns.
United says that Miles on a Mission has raised 406,335,533 miles since 2019.
18. Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club has pledged £2.5 million over five years to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) initiatives with grants, sponsorships and investments through its ‘Passport to Change’ programme.
Charity partners include UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Speakers for Schools and Smallpiece, as well as three schools in the communities of Crawley (where the head office is located), Swansea (where the Customer Centre is located) and Atlanta (where the North America team is based).
To make a donation, you must log into your account and follow the steps outlined by the website.