United Airline award miles versus Bereavement Fares

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On the evening of June 30th, we received a phone call from relatives at Albany, New York that Isa's uncle might live for only another 2~3 days.  Immediately, we organized our travel plan.

See "United Airlines" section on the right hand side about my experience to earn United miles. For example,
  1. Isa used her 75,000 United Airline miles to redeem two round trip tickets to Albany at the earliest possible (and affordable) one-day-later flight.  Southwest would cost $2000 for two round-trip tickets.  Saved $2000.
  2. I expected Uncle's house would be visited by neighbors and friends often, and relatives would be busy taking care of his needs. (My assumption is correct).  So I used my 120,000 Hilton HHonor points to redeem four nights at Hampton Inn Albany Airport at Latham, which is only 10 minutes drive away from Uncle's house.  We dropped the idea to pay for hotel stays, for example, $85 per night at Best Western Inn before taxes, because, for example, future hotel stays inside Yosemite does not accept any redeem points from Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, .etc. Isa felt guilty because I used up almost all my Hilton HHonor points to visit her uncle.  I shared we have earned 100,000 Virgin Atlantic points that can be converted to be 200,000 Hilton HHonor points. Yet no conversion is in plan, in case we want to fly Virgin Atlantic flights to London.  (Everything at that Hampton Inn was quiet and clean, except loud AC, thus 4 star). King bed suite at Hampton Inn at Albany is priced at $144 per night before taxes and tips.  Saved about $600 for 4 nights of hotel stays.
    1. King-size bedroom suite
      A quiet and clean breakfast area
  3. For the same reason of not bring more work to Albany relatives, we rented a car via Priceline.com, about $200.

Two round-trip tickets San Francisco - Albany

4 nights at Hampton Inn Albany Airport at Latham

I cancelled our mid-August Southwest tickets without penalty. The Southwest Rapid reward points were refunded immediately.  Although United Airline service is not one of the best, its options and convenience during urgent times have demonstrated the high value of United award miles.  I am currently working and learning how to achieve $5000 within three months after the approval of my Chase Ink Business card with 60,000 bonus points, and accumulating more United miles by leveraging the 5% promotion in Chase Freedom.  Two days ago, a United 50,000 bonus points target promotional email also arrived.  I decided to stick to my credit card plan and not to apply the one for the rest of 2013.

Compassion (Bereavement) fares
After this trip, my best friend mentioned that there are bereavement fares that his colleagues took and were free.  It sounded too good.  Web search reveals that they are not free.  There will be discounts, some not explicitly specified.  When United award miles are not available, this will be another option.  Also check Priceline.com, Kayak.com, Travelocity.com for possible last-minute discount tickets.

United Airline
"United offers a 5% discount on fares (roundtrip or one-way) in the event of a death or serious illness (requiring hospitalization or hospice care) of an immediate family member."

American Airline
"American Airlines offers a compassion fare for customers traveling due to a medical emergency or death of a family member not limited to immediate family of the passenger. Domestic partners are allowed.
This fare also applies to customers traveling due to a medical emergency within their family."

Delta Air Lines
"Bereavement fares are available only by calling Delta Reservations"

Southwest Airline

We arrived in Albany on-time to see him.  It was my first time and last time to meet him in-person. He saw us and cried immediately.  Two days later, uncle passed away in the very late night of July 4th peacefully.

In this urgent visiting trip, Isa used 75,000 United miles for our tickets and 162,500 United miles for her mom's ticket and changes and booking mistakes, because her mom extended her stay to take care her last surviving (and younger) brother.  Although she used up half of her traveled-earned United miles, Isa smiled at me, worth it, ok to make mistakes.

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