Late mom's frequent-flier miles cannot be transferred


December 09, 2007|By San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

My late mother had thousands of unused frequent-flier miles with United Airlines when she passed away. Is it possible to transfer her miles to my Mileage Plus account so that they aren't lost?

In your case, you will not be able to claim your mother's frequent-flier miles. A spokeswoman for United told us that miles from their Mileage Plus frequent-flier program are not transferable after a person dies. Same with Northwest Airlines.

However, some airlines permit a spouse or heir to claim unused miles. American and Continental, for example, allow a surviving relative or beneficiary to claim the miles, but they must first submit required information and a copy of the death certificate. American, for instance, requires that an affidavit be signed by the spouse, heir or executor and sent along with a $50 fee. Even if the heir does not have a frequent-flier account, he or she can open one before requesting the transfer of miles.

Contact each airline's frequent-flier customer-service center for details. What tour companies offer trips to Mali?

We found a handful of companies that offer excursions to the West African country, including a visit to Timbuktu. The best times to visit are from November to January, after the rainy season and before temperatures and humidity soar.

Wadouba Tours (wadoubatours .com) has group and private travel, with trips from seven to 20 days. We suggest you contact it by e-mail for specifics about trips.

If you visit in January, make sure to see the Festival in the Desert near Timbuktu, a popular music and cultural event.

Saga Tours ( and Palace Tours ( have packages that include the festival.

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