Donated Airline Miles, Credit Card Points Have Funded 20,000 Flights for Afghan Refugees

Americans and airline companies are donating miles to help transport Afghan refugees who want to resettle in the United States.

By donating frequent flyer miles, Miles4migrant, the group that started the campaign, wanted to show support for the people fleeing Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover in mid-August.

Individuals alone have donated enough credit card points to cover 20,000 flights, according to Miles4Migrants and Welcome.US, a nonprofit collection generating private-sector support for Afghan arrivals.

"Government resources are limited, and we knew that the American people wanted to support Afghans who were arriving and help them find safe homes," said the group's co-founder, Andy Freedman. "That's when we turned to the airlines."

So far, more than half of the contributions have come from corporate airlines donating tickets.

United Airlines has donated 7,000 flights and American Airlines has donated 6,000.
Organizers said that smaller contributions have also come from Delta, JetBlue, Alaska, Frontier, Air Canada, aircraft maker Boeing and the Tripadvisor Charitable Foundation.

Already about 3,200 donated mile flights have carried Afghans on U.S. military bases to new homes around the U.S., organizers said.

The nation's airlines in collaboration with the campaign have raised enough to provide 40,000 flights for Afghan refugees. Organizers wish to double that amount in the future.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jay Inslee Washington refugees
FILE - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference at the Afghan Welcome Center at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, in this Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, file photo. Ordinary Americans and the nation's airlines are combining to donate miles and cash to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States. Organizers said Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, they have raised enough donations pay for 40,000 flights, but they're hoping to nearly double that amount. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

"It is incredibly inspiring to see the American people and American companies coming together to welcome our new Afghan neighbors in this way," said Nazanin Ash, the CEO of Welcome.US and a former State Department official during the Bush and Obama administrations.

The organizers are looking to raise enough additional donations to pay for another 30,000 flights. Using donated miles and cash to pay for travel will free up government refugee aid for housing and other services, organizers say.

"Historically, the evacuees typically pay for their own travel. That is quite a burden to be putting on people who come (to the U.S.) with very little," said former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is President Joe Biden's point person on aiding the Afghan refugees and is also Biden's nominee for ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to Markell, about 9,000 Afghans have been resettled in the U.S., about 53,000 are living in temporary housing at military bases in the U.S., another 3,700 are coming in next 10 days from bases in Europe and the Middle East, and up to 30,000 more are projected to arrive over the next year or so, a figure that includes people still in Afghanistan.

Veterans groups and others have scrambled to get Afghan allies such as interpreters who served the U.S. military on flights out of Kabul since the capital fell to the Taliban. Some don't have the special immigrant visas that were intended for Afghans who helped Americans during the 20-year U.S. military presence, and the U.S. abandoned its embassy in August.

Some former Trump administration officials are working to build opposition to the U.S. resettlement of Afghan refugees, saying they are a security threat. "How many terrorists are among them?" Trump said in a recent statement. The Biden administration says they were vetted before entering the U.S.

Afghan refugees
FILE - Afghan refugee girls watch a soccer game from a distance near the Village at the Ft. McCoy U.S. Army base in Ft. McCoy, Wisc., in this Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, file photo. Ordinary Americans and the nation's airlines are combining to donate miles and cash to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States. Organizers said Tuesday, Oct. 26, they have raised enough donations pay for 40,000 flights, but they're hoping to nearly double that amount. Barbara Davidson/Pool Photo via AP, File