ImageWhat Happens to Your Miles When You Die?

What if your loved one spent decades accruing frequent flier miles?  Could you inherit those miles?

The short answer: inheriting miles is a hassle, but certain major airlines allow it.

Some airlines state plainly that such inheritance is fair-game; others state plainly that it’s not. And still others post on their site that it’s not permitted, while actually offering the option if you manage to talk to the right person.  The New York Times broke it down for us, and we’re breaking it down even more for you:

American: AAdvantage miles can be transferred from the deceased to the beneficiary. On request, the airline sends an affidavit to fill out, stating who should get the miles. Mail it back with a copy of the respective death certificate. Within seven business days those miles should be transferred. This process is free.

US Airways: Same deal. Transfer Dividend miles to the beneficiary’s account for free; just make sure it’s done within a year of the person’s death and that the miles haven’t expired. Send in a document proving inheriting rights, like a will, and a copy of the death certificate.

JetBlue: The Times spoke with an airline rep who said while there’s no official inheritance policy, after JetBlue’s legal team verifies the request they will approve the transfer.

Delta: Their policy says they don’t do it. If you talk to customer service they may tell you otherwise, and in fact the site offers a claim form: Conclusion? They’re not obligated to, but they might grant you the service.

United: Again, vague guidelines. Their site states MileagePlus program doesn’t permit such transfers. Customer service says otherwise.

Southwest: No go. Southwest clearly states it will not transfer RapidRewards points post-mortem.

Verdict: It depends on the airline, and each one has its own inconvenient approach.

A bit of history, it will be quick. The first frequent flier program was launched by Frank Lorenzo’s Texas International Airlines in 1979.  For the next couple decades mainstream media didn’t broach the question of what would happen to those miles when a flier died. Why? So first, people rarely look at a new phenomenon through a moribund lens until they have to. Consider the flurry when Facebook users started seeing recommendations to “reconnect” with friends who had passed away. Moreover, at the start of the frequent flier program not many expected hundreds of thousands of fliers to accrue millions of miles.

If you have any more questions about this issue feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll be happy to answer it.

But wait!!! What if you know the number and password of the account in question? Why not just use the miles directly, and avoid all that bureaucratic sludge?

Well, really, go for it.

Regards from 🙂