Yesterday I got a confirmed date and time for the funeral, and went about buying plane tickets. I almost always fly United, so I went to their website and planned out my flight, with the cheapest tickets being $950 or so. Ouch. Short-notice flights suck. I checked Orbitz, and found that Northwest Airlines would take me for $575.
So, I called United's 24-hour customer service line and asked about an emergency rate. After talking a while, I got the ticket price down to about $575. The flight times were pretty awful, and there was a multi-hour layover, but it wasn't much worse than the Northwest flight I had seen earlier. I started the ticket purchase process, and then I was asked for the name of the deceased. Marie Spomer. Then the name of the funeral home. Um... I don't know. Then the name and phone number of the funeral director. I didn't have this information, and it was already too late to call my parents, so I had to hang up, looking like someone who wasn't actually going for a funeral, and just wanted cheap tickets.
I was ready to just forget about the frequent flier miles and go with Northwest. So, I went back to Orbitz and typed in almost exactly the same flight information, but I couldn't remember exactly which options I chose the first time, so I guessed on a couple. And then I found a United flight—the best one by far, actually—for like $525. Sometimes mistakes can save you money.