Fly a hero home

by Charlie Leocha on October 10, 2003

You can donate miles to help troops returning from Iraq on leave fly home. Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United and Pan Am have all joined Operation Hero Miles to allow their frequent flier program members donate miles to be used by soldiers.

This program is tailor-made for those of us with hefty banks of frequent flier mileage. And it will make a big difference to our troops.

If your airline’s frequent flier program hasn’t joined Operation Hero Welcome, send it an e-mail. Ask how you can donate your miles to help our troops. There is no reason why every major frequent flier program should not be participating.

Recently, the Department of Defense announced that troops in Iraq will get a two week leave – but there’s one catch. The military provides free transportation to either Germany or Baltimore-Washington International Airport and soon Dallas/Fort Worth.

After that, the soldier has to pay his or her way the rest of the way to their destination.

Airline passengers who’ve racked up frequent flier miles can donate those miles to Operation Hero Miles program to get a soldier back home. So far, as of Sunday, November 9th, four airlines have joined this frequent flier mileage donation program.

Each of the airline programs is a bit different with various systems for donations and varied minimums. But each program will help hundreds of troops make their way from Baltimore/Washington and Dallas/Fort Worth airports to their homes.

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Mileage Plan members may donate a minimum of 500 miles to Operation Hero Miles. For every 5,000 miles donated, Alaska Airlines and Bank of America will each contribute an additional 1,000 miles.

Delta Airlines has donated 10 million miles to jump-start Operation Hero Miles, enough for up to 400 round trip tickets. Skymiles members can donate mileage to the program with a minimum of 5,000 miles donation.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members may donate free tickets they have earned in Southwest Rewards. Partial credits may not be donated.

United Airlines Mileage Plus members may donate a minimum of 1000 miles to Operation Hero Miles. United is donating 10 million miles, and will match member donations mile-for-mile up to an additional 5 million miles.

Pan Am and Boston-Maine Airways have gone one step better and will provide free air transportation to military personnel on leave. Transportation will be provided on a space available basis and the individual will be required to present his/her leave orders to qualify.

This program allows those of us with an overload of frequent flier miles to make a difference in the lives of our troops. This is also a great way to clean out any leftover miles that are wasting away in mileage programs that are going to expire or programs that many of us have left dormant.

Operation Hero Miles was created by the staff of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), whose district includes BWI airport, to help troops get home from the military’s gateway cities.

The entire program is explained at its site where the list of participating airlines is maintained. Links take frequent travelers to individual airline Hero Miles programs and explain how to donate miles complete with email addresses and phone numbers.

Again, contact your frequent mile program and urge them to participate in Operation Hero Miles. These donations are something that will make a big difference in thousands of soldiers’ lives when they come home on leave.

I’ve already donated all my remaining United Mileage Plus miles. Join me in making a difference. Go to the Web site and find out how you can donate or contact your airline’s frequent flier program and encourage them to participate.

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