Despite being battered to its core by the pandemic, the airline industry has collectively found a way to lend a helping hand to struggling businesses and nonprofits.
In response to what's known as "Giving Tuesday," some of the country's largest carriers began encouraging their customers to donate air miles to help offset costs for organizations that rely on travel so they can continue providing essential services to communities around the country.
It comes amid a time when they need it most. The coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent economic recession had left an increasing number of Americans strapped for cash since the springtime. As a result, more than 70% of organizations worldwide reported seeing a "significant" reduction in contributions and as a result, have had to suspended programs involving travel or events, according to a survey conducted by CAF America.
To help, United is encouraging its MileagePlus members to use the crowdsourcing platform, Miles on a Mission, to donate miles for various charities including Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress and Compass to Care. The platform is comprised of nearly early 40 nonprofits that are trying to raise more than 11 million miles to be used for travel for "life-saving health care, continued education and humanitarian aid," United said.
The carrier promises to match the first 125,000 miles raised for each organization "to help ensure they meet their goals."
"This year has posed unprecedented challenges for us all and has been especially devastating to some of the most vulnerable members within the communities we serve," Suzi Cabo, managing director of global community engagement at United, said.
American Airlines also encouraging its customers and employees to donate their AAdvantage miles to causes the airline supports under its three giving pillars: Miles for Global Health and Well-Being, Miles for Our Heroes. and Miles for Social Good.
Organizations including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Make-a-Wish, Gary Sinise Foundation, Medal of Honor Foundation, UNICEF, American Red Cross, and Feeding America fall under these categories.
Likewise, Southwest is encouraging its Rapid Rewards members to give back to organizations "whose missions are aimed at transforming lives and championing communities across the nation" through the carrier's Points for a Purpose program.
Southwest has kicked off the effort by donating 100,000 of its Rapid Rewards Points to organizations that have recently joined the Points for a Purpose program including Polaris and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
The organizations in Southwest's program support a range of needs from providing assistance during and after disasters, supporting survivors of human trafficking and making a positive impact on the environment.
Meanwhile, Delta says it will be focusing on "diverse organizations with a focus on women- and minority-owned businesses."
"During this crisis, many diverse organizations, such as women- and minority-owned businesses, have been adversely impacted," Kristen Shovlin, Delta's vice president of sales operations and development, said.
The carrier plans to donate up to 50 million SkyBonus points to these organizations. The carrier will provide 25 million points upfront to eligible SkyBonus accounts.
At the same time, the carrier is also encouraging its customer to donate points or unused tickets, "which will be matched by Delta up to 25 million points," the carrier said.
“2020 has been a difficult year for many as we weather the challenges of COVID-19 together,” said Shovlin.
Earlier in November, JetBlue began this effort by donating 3 million TrueBlue points to a variety of charities. The airline is also encouraging its customers to do the same by donating loyalty points "to help nonprofits continue their work within their local communities."
TrueBlue members can donate points to organizations including Autism Speaks, Make-A-Wish, Together We Rise and World Central Kitchen.
The points will go to a selected charity, and each charity "may use the points for travel necessary to advance its mission," Jetblue said.
The airline has been donating points for years. Since 2012, JetBlue has donated more than 23 million TrueBlue points to Make-A-Wish.
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