Quick note, via the Chicago Tribune Daywatch, the Wall Street Journal today has a mildly-interesting article on why you can usually donate frequent-flier miles but not actual tickets. Hint: the miles don't have your name on them:
As much as $2 billion worth of nonrefundable airline tickets expire every year without being used, but those who want to give them to charities rather than throw them away are grounded with only good intentions.
Most airlines make their tickets "nontransferable" to protect their fare structures and maintain control of their inventory. Otherwise, entrepreneurs might hoard cheap tickets and then resell them at higher prices closer to departure. Or big companies might buy up a batch of cheap tickets for frequently traveled routes and then assign them to business travelers when trips are planned.
Travelers can fly later on their unused tickets by applying the value of the ticket to another trip to any destination after deducting change fees. But most airlines require the new ticket to be in the original passenger's name. Alaska Airlines is one notable exception that does allow customers to transfer the dollar value of a ticket to anyone after paying a $100 change fee.
... A spokesman for AMR Corp.'s American Airlines said the carrier thinks [donating tickets to charity is] a great idea, but too complex. "The problem with ticket transfers of any type is the potential for resale of tickets, other types of fraud, and other complex security issues," he said.
Given that many carriers still use the Saabre system, developed by AMR in the 1970s and 1980s, I don't doubt the complexity.