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“That was rough,” my cousin quietly confessed last Saturday after a service to bid our final farewell to his father, my uncle. As I gave him a long hug, I was so grateful to be able to be there to support my family. Is there anything more important?
Emergencies happen. And rarely are they convenient. They often leave us scrambling at the last-minute to find cheap or at least moderately affordable flights. Airline bereavement fares these days provide little to no reprieve, offering tiny discounts or forcing buyers to jump through myriad hoops precisely at a time when they do not need added complications.
In situations like this, it can be a real blessing to have a stash of frequent flier miles and, importantly, to know how to use them. Award tickets are a great option for last-minute travel. If you purchase a revenue ticket two or three days before departure, you will pay top dollar. However, in that same window, there is often award ticket availability, as airlines try to fill unsold seats on upcoming flights.
So it was that, when faced with a death in the family, Jim and I were able to quickly and easily redeem some AAdvantage (American Airlines) last week and get ourselves home to family.
While it is certainly more glamorous to dream about using miles for aspirational travel to far-flung destinations, I can think of few better uses than as a way to relieve stress, financial burden, and complication during difficult times.
This was not the first time miles had come to the rescue for me. Almost two years ago, I was hit by a car in the crosswalk while walking to the metro after work. Recovering from that collision would come to dominate the next two years of my life. Shortly after the incident, Jim had to leave town for work, and I, with my broken bones, soft tissue injuries, bruises, and traumatic brain injury, needed help. I couldn’t take care of myself.
Even in that pathetic state, I was able to book an award ticket for one of my very best friends to fly down from Canada and stay with me. Again, not glamorous, but a fantastic use of my miles. (Shout-out to my Loba—you rock, girl!)
So, even if you are not a jet-setter, I encourage you to think about accumulating some frequent flier miles to have on hand as insurance. Hopefully you will never need to use them for that purpose, but it is nice to know that in an emergency you won’t be grounded because you couldn’t afford to fly.
Have you ever redeemed miles for a family emergency? What was the easiest or hardest part for you? Do you have questions on how to redeem miles? Let us know in the comments!
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