It was only a matter of time until the travel industry came up with a way to help those fleeing the violence in Ukraine – and here it is. By using the direct method of donating airline miles, it is possible to ensure that individuals and families get out of war-torn areas and into safety.
One program, Miles4Migrants, is the brainchild of travel tip websites The Points Guy and The Lonely Planet. Miles for Migrants provides assistance to those needing transportation out of Ukraine – as well as out of other troubled and dangerous areas. Miles4Migrants is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses donated airline miles and cash to provide airfare to refugees to get them to safety.
And just before press time, the results were impressive:
- 30,000+: Number of People Flown
- 90+: Countries of Origin
- $8M+: Value of Flights Booked
- 370M+: Miles Redeemed
The website for Miles4Migrants provides options for supporting a flight, as well as an option for those who want to move from Ukraine to Canada at no cost. (For the latter option, Miles4Migrants has partnered with the Canadian government, Air Canada, and the Shapiro Foundation to launch the Ukraine2Canada Travel Fund. This fund will provide flights at no cost to Ukrainians so they can reach safe homes across Canada to begin rebuilding their lives).
Miles4Migrants notes, “We accept miles and points pledges from almost all loyalty programs; however, based on the most frequent requests for departure/arrival locations, certain programs are used more frequently than others. The most needed miles and points donations are:
- United Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Alaska Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Capital One Rewards
- Air Canada/Aeroplan
You never know when your miles or points could be the exact match for a deserving individual or family, so if you have another form of miles/points, we'd still love to receive your pledge!”
Other donate-miles programs have also been set up. According to WCNC, the local NBC affiliate in Charlotte, a North Carolina man (who identified himself only as “MG,”) and who is a frequent flyer, wondered if there was a need for donated miles and put out a note on Facebook to gauge interest. Within an hour of his original post, he was getting messages from people who knew families who needed help with tickets. He immediately invited other businesspeople to donate their unused frequent flyer miles.
The post went viral. Many who had not been traveling were more than happy to share miles for a good cause. In the month since the word went out, people have donated 9 million miles, allowing even more Ukrainians to escape to safety.
And to demonstrate the way those miles could be used, WCNC reporters noted, “MG posted to Facebook that a one-way flight from Poland to Raleigh-Durham Airport would cost over $1,700 this Friday. With 30,000 miles, the ticket is knocked down to just over $90.”
"That's something that we cherish forever; the fact that a stranger from 9,100 miles away from Apex, North Carolina, reached out there in Poland, flew them to San Francisco or Charlotte or any city or any country for that matter, is powerful," MG said.
Airline miles can and do expire. MG told WCNC he has spoken with executives at some of the major airlines about extending dates on expiring miles. American Airlines issued the following statement to WCNC Charlotte:
"Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity so anyone whose miles are about to expire will have to have activity in their account including, but not limited to, earning, redeeming or donating miles. The mileage donation in a minimum amount of 1,000 AAdvantage miles to one of AAs charitable buckets counts as activity, but this is not specific to Ukraine. Beginning March 7, funds collected in flight-by-flight attendants and online through American’s partnership with UNICEF’s Change for Good program will be directed to support UNICEF and its humanitarian response in Ukraine."
To get in touch with MG, email email@example.com. Or go to his FB page: MG's vision & lights on Holt Road.
For those who don’t have miles to spare, but who want to help Ukrainian refugees caught in the conflict, PBS has a list of charities, with details on who they aid, and how.