News & Opinion | July 28, 2018 5:00 am

Here’s What Happens to Your Airplane Miles If You Die

Are they an asset you should make plans for?

sleeping pilot
A pilot recently fell asleep on the job, but luckily no one was injured. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

After Anthony Bourdain’s death on June 8, it was reported by Page Six that he left his airline miles to his wife. The famed chef and TV host asked Ottavia Busia-Bourdain to “dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes.” The will was made up in 2016, shortly before the couple separated.

Frequent flier miles are an asset, but should you make plans for them, just like securities or real estate? Can you, in fact, bequeath one’s airline miles? Town & Country discovered that you can, but it depends on the airline and credit card company.

Though American has a policy that says milage credit it “not transferable and may not be combined among AAdvantage members, their estates, successors or assigns,” you can actually transfer your airline miles. The policy goes on to say the airline “in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in court approved divorce decrees and wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”

You can transfer JetBlue miles but not after death. Travelers can use the airline’s family pooling feature though.

United allows you to transfer airline miles, and has a program dedicated to it. Mileage transfers cost $7.50 per 500 miles, plus a processing fee of $30 per transaction, according to the airline and Town & Country. A United agent did say that in the cases of death, typically the transfer fees could be waived, with proper documentation.

You cannot transfer your airline miles from Delta, however. Their policy says “miles may not be sold, attached, seized, levied upon, pledged, or transferred under any circumstances, including, without limitation, by operation of law, upon death, or in connection with any domestic relations dispute and/or legal proceeding.”