Airlines reward customers who donate to Hurricane Sandy relief

Citibank on Friday provided mobile fee-free ATM services to residents of Hoboken, N.J. The area was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, and many residents were still without power.
(Charles Sykes / Associated Press)
Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

A donation to the Red Cross to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy can not only make you feel good but also comes with a thank yoiu in return.

Airlines have in recent years set up post-disaster donation pages that reward travelers for their generosity (not that any of us need a reward to help out).

Are they effective? You betcha. Last year members of American Airlines AAdvantage program donated $1.8 million to the Red Cross to help victims of Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami as well as Hurricane Irene, according to the airline’s website.

And this week the response was swift.

JetBlue, which canceled more than 1,400 flights last week, told customers by email Friday they could earn six points in its TrueBlue loyalty program for every $1 donated by Nov. 30 at its Red Cross page. (I’m one of the TrueBlue members who received the notice.) The airline will match up to $100,000 in customer donations. The company also is donating $250,000 to a nonprofit set up to help its crew members affected by the crisis.

By the way, the airline also had one of the longer window periods for waiving cancellation/change fees. Ticket holders who were slated to fly between Oct. 30 and Nov. 4 can change their dates as late as Nov. 15. And if they don’t want to fly, they’ll receive a credit for the full value of the ticket good for a year.


United Airlines also set up an online giving page that allows customers to donate to the Red Cross, Feeding America and AmeriCares. The airline promises to match up to $100,000 to the nonprofit organizations. Members of its MileagePlus club who give $50 to $99 to one of the three receive 250 bonus miles; contribute $100, and you receive 500 bonus miles.

“United has deep roots in the affected areas, and we’re committed to supporting the communities where our co-workers and customers live and work,” Sonya Y. Jackson, president of the United Airlines Foundation, says on the online page.

American Airlines responded too. It offers 250 AAdvantage bonus miles for a $50 donation and 500 miles for a donation of $100 or more to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross itself has partnerships with Delta, United and US Airways that allow frequent fliers to donate miles. The miles are used for flights to transport workers and volunteers to wherever they’re needed.

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