UN health effort to get boost from airline tickets sales


MINNEAPOLIS — Travelers will soon have the chance to donate $2 or more to help fight AIDS in developing countries when they buy an airline ticket.

The money will go to the Millennium Foundation, which is working with the United Nations to fund health goals, including fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They’re calling the donation effort MassiveGood. This is the first big fundraising effort by the Geneva-based Millenium Foundation, founded in 2008 to find innovative ways to finance UN health goals. It’s working with UN-funded UNITAID, which supplies low-cost drugs to the developing world.

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The three major ticket distributors — Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre Holdings Corp. — announced on Wednesday that they’ve agreed to make the donation an option for ticket-sellers and buyers starting early next year.

It’s optional for everyone involved, including online travel sites, travel agents and corporate buyers such as American Express Business Travel. Business travel manager Carlson Wagonlit Travel confirmed on Wednesday that it intends to offer the donation through its systems, though it’s still working out details.

However, it remains to be seen how often travelers will encounter the pitch to make a donation. Tickets sold directly through airline Web sites aren’t part of the program. And it’s not clear whether companies will allow the donations on corporate travel purchases.

Sabre spokeswoman Pam Wong said by e-mail that Sabre is working on a pilot program “with a small number of agencies, with the goal of having a seamless process in place for travelers to make donations to the Millennium Foundation by early next year.” She didn’t say whether Travelocity, which is owned by Sabre, would be one of those agencies.

Travelport CEO Jeff Clarke said the option will show up on tickets sold in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany starting early next year. He said that for travelers it will show up like any other choice in buying the ticket, along with adding a car rental or hotel. “This is just one more choice for the consumer,” he said.

He said there’s nothing in it for the distribution companies, and they won’t collect any of the donated money to cover what they’re spending on programming and processing the donations.

“We view it as an investment in goodwill for our customers and the industry,” he said.