Update: 4 Days To Raise 300,000 Miles And Connect Families With Dying Relatives

Update: They’ve raised 1.2 million miles of the 1.5 million mile goal. But unless they raise another 300,000 miles in the next 4 days, they won’t receive any of the miles. Please consider donating United miles to Give-a-Mile now. I have done so.

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is ‘how can I donate miles to charity?’ And the problem is that you really can’t unless you want to give to one of a handful of pre-selected groups your frequent flyer program endorses, or you want to directly book an award for someone out of your account.

Give a Mile is a non-profit that helps people in need with air travel, using miles donated by members. So far they’ve been able to work with Air Canada, but now they have a partnership with United.

Just before the pandemic United Airlines launched a platform to let charities fundraise for miles from MileagePlus members, and Give A Mile is currently working to raise 1,500,000 United miles to bring loved ones to visit patients with terminal illnesses. They’ve separately given over 750 flights in Canada through their Aeroplan partnership.

The impact is huge, as this former flight recipient explains: “….You guys gave my brothers a last chance to see our Mom before she went unconscious and passed away. Without your generous support my brothers would not have had the chance to talk, pray and sing with our mom and get closure, God Bless your generous kind hearted souls for making all this possible. During the time spent with my brothers in Vancouver it gave my Dad, Mom and rest of family strength to know we are one and really know how valuable life is because in front of our eyes my mom’s life slipped away.”

If you’d like to participate, you can gift from 1000 to 500,000 miles. I’ve made a donation myself.

They’re around halfway towards their goal. There’s just 10 days left in the campaign. If they don’t raise another 750,000 miles then all the pledged miles go back to the donors and Give-a-Mile will have nothing. As a result, another way to think about it is that every miles you give right now is effectively ‘matched’ by the people that have already pledged. And the person who gives the last 1000 miles is effectively securing 1.5 million miles for the charity. So it’s the perfect time to jump in.

Give a Mile does more than just spend your miles. They work with hospices, ICUs and hospitals to confirm details and also make sure that Covid-19 rules and restrictions are being followed in order to connect people with dying people they care about. They do this on a volunteer basis, with all miles going towards this program.

Hopefully the ability to give to more charities – often we’re miles rich, and cash poor – is something airlines will consider. United deserves credit for making this platform available, and Give A Mile for using it to help people in need.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It seems like a worthy project, but why 1,500,000 or nothing? Who set that rule? Why wouldn’t 1,200,000 miles do a lot of good?

  2. @ Gary — I would be shocked if United didn’t follow through with the donation. Don’t companies usually just budget these things as guaranteed and then ask the public to pay up (“we’ll donate 5 cents of every BigMac we sell in February”, or whatever…)? I hate to be so cynical , but United is only doing this because it is good for United.

  3. Not to be crass, but what can you take a deduction for? United’s valuation? That would be nice.

  4. @Steven, I don’t think people can get tax deductions for donating miles, much as they don’t pay taxes on the value of the miles when they are received. I doubt that Gary would have played the Simply Miles game if he’d be paying 37% in taxes on American’s valuation of the miles.

  5. I’m always left with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth by promotions like this.

    If United thinks this cause is so important, they could just put 1,500,000 miles in the fund no problem at all.

    Yet instead they ask their customers to donate to a program that makes United look charitable.

    Seems super weird to me. If companies want to be charitable, go ahead, I’m happy to see it! But the, “lets encourage our customers to be charitable in our name.” is very strange to me.

  6. This seems a neat program. My mother was diagnosed with ALS and I flew back and forth a TON from LAX-GSP this year. Flew back 36 hours ago as she was about to pass away, and pass away she did just today. I would never have been able to afford this has I not broken my leg due to a faulty pipe by Atlantic Records… this program could be of some real use to somebody! Now if only I can get AA to not charge me $350 to go home next week, who flies mid-January during Omicron? Surely the rates should be closer to $200 but it is last minute and there are no employees, so alas.

  7. @Ryan I completely agree. I’ve seen this stuff since the 90s. US Airways used to have a little bit in their inflight magazine on it, if I remember correctly – “donate miles so sick folks can fly to family” and vice versa. As a kid, I always wondered why US Airways wouldn’t just dispense with the notion of mileage redemption/donation for these folks and give them a spare seat. It’s the equivalent of me offering a brand new minivan for sick folks but asking for everyone else to pay me for the van.

  8. I never use United. Just checked and I had 1,615 miles just sitting in my account from who knows when. Donated them. Thanks for highlighting this Gary!

  9. Completely agree with Ryan and Jon. United could easily just give people free seats, why all the theater with donating miles?

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