How to Avoid Paying $1,000 for an Emergency Flight

Last Minute, Emergency or Bereavement Flights

Sometimes, you just have to fly. An emergency situation requires your presence and you do not have the luxury of waiting until a flight deal comes along.

Does that mean you have to pay that expensive, last minute full-fare coach price that can set you back $1,000 or more? Not necessarily; take a look at the following six tips and discover how to save on a last minute flight.

Listen to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott explain how they find decent prices for last minute “must-travel” trips.

Six Tips to Save Money on Last Minute Emergency Flights

To save the most on airfare, try these tips in the following order:

1. Use frequent flyer miles

Using your frequent flyer miles or airline points on any expensive flight makes economic sense because it’s cost-effective, and if you don’t have enough miles for your flight, check with your carrier. Some airlines allow you to buy more to redeem a trip or offer partial miles and/or cash payment options. Friends and family may be able to help too since they can sometimes redeem their own miles toward your ticket.

Archives: Are Airline Points Programs Worth It?

2. Ask your airline about discount fares for emergencies

Bereavement fares are largely a thing of the past with a lot of airlines (United being a notable exception), but call your airline if you have the slightest doubt. Sometimes airline phone reps are empowered to offer discounts in such cases, typically 10% off. However, it is a crapshoot, so call knowing that some airlines will charge you a $25 phone fee and you may get nothing out of it.

3. Look for vacation packages to your destination

The people who package trips typically negotiate fixed-prices for air plus car or air plus car and hotel deals, which can result in a cheaper overall price than last minute airfare alone. Just ditch the car and/or hotel if you cannot use them.

4. Watch the airline “stay” requirements

Some airlines require that you stay a night or two, or maybe include a Saturday night “stayover” to get the best available pricing; be cognizant of such requirements and try to include these days in your flights if at all possible.

5.  Do not forget to check airfare prices of low cost carriers

As a general rule, the so-called discount airlines have a lower airfare base-price for last minute fliers (though these prices have been rising in recent years); do not kick yourself later for failing to check out these offerings. Also, unlike legacy airlines, at least some of the low cost carriers offer one-way pricing which affords last minute travelers greater flexibility, particularly for those who are not certain of their return dates.

6. If you must buy expensive airfare, consider first or business class

Many travelers do not realize that last minute full-fare coach prices can actually be higher than business or first class prices. Check prices for all cabin classes when you have to leave in a hurry; you could actually save money by flying first class. Or maybe prices will be comparable, and you might as well be as comfortable as possible.

More from Rick Seaney:

How to Get Cheap, Last Minute Airline Tickets

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Published: July 21, 2011