The Brancatelli File



December 9, 1999 -- We have discussed this before, but it bears repeating: Business travelers live lives of incredible privilege.

In these hale, heady and hearty economic times, when our biggest complaints are that the planes run late and that the hotels aren't swanky enough, we need to remember that we are the lucky ones. We can afford the planes and the hotels in the first place. We eat every day, sometimes at the world's fanciest places. And we have a roof over our heads. Maybe we don't get there as often as we want to, but at least we have homes.

We must remember: We are the lucky ones. We are the privileged. We have power and money and options. When our lives really stink because the airlines lost our luggage and the rental car had cigarette butts in the ashtray, we are still the lucky ones. In our worst moments, we are still the privileged and the pampered.

So what do we do about our incredibly good fortune? During this holiday season--and it really doesn't matter if your season is Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or Ramadan--it seems to me that we must give something back. More than most, I think, we can afford it. More than most, I believe, we owe it.

We frequent travelers also have something unique to offer: miles and points. All the major airline, hotel and credit-card companies have organized schemes to allow you to donate a part of your accrued miles to a variety of worthy charities. Some will even match your donation.

Here's a look at the charitable donation plans offered by several of the major frequency plans. Don't see the program where you've got the most miles or points? Just call the frequent-travel plan's service center and ask for details. 'Tis the season, you know. The customer service agents are usually thrilled to be of assistance.

AMERICAN AIRLINES The "Miles for Kids in Need" permits American AAdvantage members to donate miles to a program used to transport seriously ill children to medical treatment or for travel to make a special wish come true. American contributes one mile for every three you donate. Consult the American website for more details.

AMERICAN EXPRESS Membership Rewards members can donate points to any of a dozen charities, including Ronald McDonald House, the Tiger Woods Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. Cardmembers donate in 1,000-point increments and Amex converts the points to cash for the contributions.

CONTINENTAL Continental flyers can donate miles from their OnePass accounts to AmeriCares, The Brass Ring Society or CAREFORCE.

DELTA The SkyWish plan allows you to contribute Delta SkyMiles to any of three charities: The Make-a-Wish Foundation, CARE or the United Way. You may make donations in increments of 5,000 miles and Delta will contribute one mile for every five miles you donate.

DINERS CLUB Club Rewards members can contribute points accrued with their Diners Club to charities such as Junior Achievement and the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. Cardmembers can donate in 4,500-point increments.

NORTHWEST The AirCares Program permits you to contribute Northwest WorldPerks miles to a long list of charitable organizations, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Children's Diabetes Foundation. Northwest chooses one of the charities each quarter as the beneficiary. The minimum donation is 5,000 miles; larger contributions may be made in 1,000-mile increments. Northwest even offers a special perk: It will add 500 miles to your WorldPerks account when you donate miles or at least $50 to AirCares.

TWA Members of TWA's Aviators program can donate in 1,000-mile increments to organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

UNITED AIRLINES The Mileage Plus Charity Miles Program permits United flyers to contribute to more than a dozen organizations, including the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Special Olympics and the Shriners Children's Hospitals. The minimum donation is 10,000 miles.

USAIRWAYS US Airways' donation plan, the Dividend Miles Charity Program allows travelers to contribute miles to Make a Wish or the Save The Children Fund. The minimum donation is 5,000 miles; US Airways will contribute one mile for every five you donate. Best of all, US Airways permits you to donate directly from your Dividend Miles account via the Internet.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.