Miles. We’ve all got them. But are we using them?
Since the birth of the first frequent flyer program in 1981, an estimated 11 trillion miles have been awarded. Of those, less than 400 billion — that’s three percent — have been redeemed for awards. That leaves roughly 8 trillion miles unaccounted for. Factor in the nine to 10 percent of outstanding miles that expire each year and the number is still staggering.
And yet charities like the Dream Foundation have to “beg borrow and steal” to meet the last wishes of terminally ill adults in all 50 states, says Thomas Rollerson, Dream Foundation’s founder and president. A majority of those wishes involve travel.
Donation burnout, a declining economy and decreased business travel have all taken their toll on agencies like the Dream Foundation, which depends on donations of frequent flyer miles and reward tickets to see that the 250 to 300 dream requests come true each year
This past fiscal year, the Dream Foundation took in close to 50 percent fewer frequent flyer miles than the year before.
The group is not alone. Others have had very little luck in even getting one or two flights through awards a year. That can begin to change with the advent of http://www.miledonor.com.
This non-profit effort provides an opportunity for donors, charities, frequent traveler programs, individuals and non-profit groups seeking donations to exchange information.
The site is free for all interested parties, and provides links to charities, airlines and banking institutes that solicit and provide much needed airline tickets to the sick, poor and non-profit groups.
The Web site was launched in mid-November and is expected to be updated regularly. If you’d like to put to good use those miles you’ve been hanging on to, there are plenty of people and organizations that desperately need your help.
“(Having a bank of miles) would be an absolute godsend,” says Mark Spencer, the team coordinator for American Rescue Team International. The team, about 25,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and military men and women from around the world, are deployed to some of the world’s worst disaster sites. “I’m not kidding, the biggest roadblocks for these teams is that if you are not government-sponsored, travel is a nightmare.”