We live in a society where travel by plane is as normal as taking the train. Whether you are travelling for work or pleasure, the chances are you will have been on a plane before.
However, the normality of flying combined with the nation's addiction to saving incentives means that when someone dies we now might need to consider their flying history when dealing with their estate.
Despite perhaps being one of the last things you might think to consider when someone dies, loyalty card points and air miles are becoming ever more valuable assets forming part of a deceased's estate.
So what is the law surrounding air miles, and are you allowed to pass them on to your loved ones when you die?
Air miles (now largely known under the Avios brand in the UK) are loyalty or reward programmes where consumers could collect points based on their spending or travelling which could then be used against the cost of flights.
Perhaps the first place to start would be the terms and conditions of the airlines. British Airways terms state that upon a customer's death the points will be voided. They go on to say that it is not possible to transfer these points across to another member. Even more unusually, they state that the points are not and have never been your property, in fact all points belong to the Avios Group Limited. This places BA as one of the least compromising airlines when it comes to allowing family members to use the points built up by a deceased.
The majority of other airlines also state that points cannot be transferred; however, this is often followed by an additional clause which allows the airlines sole discretion to decide to transfer the points to the next of kin. To be able to do this they require the production of certain documents such as the death certificate and Will. Airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Virgin all follow this policy.
What this shows is that airlines on the whole seem to be willing to allow family members to use the air miles accumulated by the deceased, but they do not actively advertise that there are points to be claimed. This places the burden on the executor to know that air miles might exist as part of the estate. Best practice would therefore be to ensure you keep a list of which loyalty cards and points schemes you are part of to assist your families when they are dealing with your estate, and reduce the risk of losing valuable accumulated miles or points.
If you do want to ensure you pass on as much of your assets to your loved ones as you wish then it is advisable to make a Will.
At Harper Macleod our Private Client team will be more than happy to assist you understand the process and help you to leave your estate to whomever you wish. We will help you with every step of the journey – from take-off till landing!