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For those who need to evacuate areas of California that are affected by dangerous wildfires, your stash of points and miles may be the last thing on your mind. However, those points may be just the ticket to get yourself and your family out of harm’s way.
If you've been evacuated from the affected areas of the Kincade fire, north of San Francisco, here are a few ways you can get out of town safely and inexpensively using your points and miles.
Current fire details
The Kincade fire has grown to an affected area of over 74,000 acres. Although containment has also increased due to the efforts of multiple fire departments and firefighting task forces, windy conditions still threaten to make things worse before they get much better.
Alaska Airlines has suspended all Santa Rosa flights because of the fires, and passengers may change their itinerary for no additional cost. Flights into and out of the larger Bay Area airports are still operating as scheduled.
» Learn more: What to do after a disaster hits your home
How to get out of SFO (by airline)
If you can get there safely, San Francisco airport is a major hub for United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, though most major U.S. airlines and many international airlines also operate at SFO. With that in mind, you should be able to use your points and miles to get out of California until it’s safe to return home.
Here are a few sample domestic routes:
United Airlines route options
All prices below are for nonstop, one-way flights. Taxes and fees quoted include United’s current close-in booking fee for last-minute flights, which may vary if you have MileagePlus status.
SFO to Chicago-O'Hare: 12,500 United miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Newark: 12,500 United miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Salt Lake City: 10,000 United miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Seattle: 10,000 United miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Portland, Oregon: 10,000 United miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
American Airlines route options
Prices below are for nonstop, one-way flights. Note that the taxes and fees figures includes a close-in booking fee for last-minute flights.
SFO to Chicago-O'Hare: 12,500 AAdvantage miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Philadelphia: 12,500 AAdvantage miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Portland, Oregon: 5,000 AAdvantage miles plus $80.60 in taxes and fees.
Alaska Airlines route options
All prices below are for nonstop, one-way flights.
SFO to Seattle: 12,500 Alaska miles plus $6 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Portland, Oregon: 12,500 Alaska miles plus $6 in taxes and fees.
SFO to Phoenix: 12,500 Alaska miles plus $19 in taxes and fees (codeshare with American).
SFO to Miami: 12,500 Alaska miles plus $19 in taxes and fees (codeshare with American).
Redemptions to avoid
If you can, avoid booking Delta, JetBlue or Southwest award redemptions this week; we didn’t find many last-minute nonstop itineraries that make much sense. United, American or Alaska miles will get you much farther this week.
Not evacuating? Donate miles to Alaska’s Disaster Relief Pool
If you don’t need to get out of harm’s way, you can donate miles to the Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool, which the airline uses to support humanitarian missions.
Alaska Mileage Plan members have this option via the LIFT Miles program. Just log in to your account, select the Donate Miles link and choose the Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool as your donation organization.
For its part, Alaska Airlines has pledged to match up to 1 million Mileage Plan miles donations to aid communities affected by the California wildfires.
The bottom line
In an attempt to support those who are affected by the Kincade fire and surrounding fires, we're committed to helping travelers use their points and miles to quickly evacuate if necessary until it's safe to return.
See these articles for more advice: How to get a refund if nature thwarts your travel plans How to get financial help after a natural disaster How to rebound from natural disaster debt