Anthony Bourdain’s Will Starts A Dialogue About What Happens To Frequent Flier Miles When You Die

Bryan BedderGetty Images

While Anthony Bourdain’s sudden and unexpected death is tragic, it’s also sharing something with the public that many people don’t know. In his will, Bourdain left his frequent flier miles to his wife to do with them what she wishes.

Town & Country posed this question: Should people make plans for their frequent flier miles like they would any other asset? Are all frequent flier miles transferable?

Bourdain left his accrued frequent flier miles, gathered from years of traveling for business and pleasure for his travel documentary, Parts Unknown, on CNN to his wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain “to dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes.” It’s unclear what the value of Bourdain’s bequest was, but with all of his travel, it could have been sizeable.

Town & Country says that whether or not your frequent flier miles are transferable depends on your credit card and the airline in question. They broke down the policies of several of the larger airlines to determine whether or not it’s worth it to make arrangements for your frequent flier miles.

American Airlines

American Airlines’ policy is somewhat confusing as they claim that mileage credit is “not transferable.”

“Mileage credit is not transferable and may not be combined among AAdvantage members, their estates, successors or assigns. Accrued mileage credit and award tickets do not constitute property of the member. Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor status, nor upgrades are transferable by the member (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise by operation of law.”


But, if you put the details of your frequent flier miles in your will, American will honor it.

“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.”

Delta Airlines

Delta is a big no, as the miles are not the property of the SkyMiles Program.


JetBlue says yes, but not in a will, and not as part of a “domestic relationship.”

“Accrued Points and Award Travel do not constitute property of Member and are non-transferable (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise.”


United will transfer miles, but for a fee.

“Mileage transfers cost $7.50 per 500 miles, plus a processing fee of $30 per transaction, according to the airline.”

But in the case of death, or if the miles are mentioned in a will, United will often waive the fee.

“The typical transfer fees may be waived, subject to the airline’s approval after the required documentation has been submitted.”

The important lesson is to get the information up front, or even before signing up for a mileage accrual program.