It’s a tough time for me.  And for so many of you.

So many people have followed the story of Haley and Taylor Odlozil on TikTok and Instagram.  They’re a young family who have been dealing with Haley’s terminal cancer diagnosis for almost a decade now.  Their story has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people around the globe.  Yesterday, she passed away at the age of 30.

This story was devastating for me, not just because of how tragic it is, but because it hit very close to home.  Haley is my cousin.

I could go on for hours about my amazing cousin and how hard she fought and the incredible man she married and how sweet her son is (he’s eating breakfast next to me right now), but Taylor’s words above summarize everything better than I could.

I want to tell you about how I got home in time.

Tuesday morning, Sydney, Australia

As most of you know, I recently moved to Sydney, Australia.  I was standing at my desk in the office on Tuesday morning local time, Monday evening back home.  I was chatting with Haley’s husband via text and just started getting a feeling that I needed to get home.  I still can’t put my finger on why I felt that way, but I just knew it was time.

My family was worried about how I would get back in time, because the flights are so long and so expensive.

I knew the situation I was heading into and wanted to get some rest to be ready, so I was hoping to fly in Business Class if I could.  A cash ticket in Business Class was going to cost somewhere around $7000 USD, which is way more than I could afford.  On a wing and a prayer, I pulled up American’s site, just seeing how bad it would be.

I broke into tears at the office.

There was award space in Business Class for only 78000 AAdvantage miles.  And it left early the next morning.

Wednesday morning, Sydney, Australia

It took me a while to pack up my things and move from my corporate apartment into my permanent residence in Sydney (long story there, stay tuned), and I had to be honest with myself about why I was flying home and emotionally prepare for what I felt was going to happen soon.

As I mentioned in my Becoming an Expat article about airline status, my new “home” lounge is the incredible Qantas First Class Lounge at SYD, one of the great lounges in the world.  Normally I love spending time there, but on Wednesday I just wanted time to move faster so the flight would leave.  Normally I sit and savor the food at the lounge but this time I had to force myself to eat, even though the food was delicious as always.  

Wednesday morning, Los Angeles, California

We had favorable winds on an American 777-300ER for a quick 14-hour flight to LAX, landing “before” we departed, thanks to the time zone change.  It was a completely typical business class flight on American, and I didn’t sleep a wink, I was just an emotional mess.  There was a relatively quick layover at LAX, even though it felt like it took forever, and I finally got some needed sleep on the quick flight to DFW.

I used my National Executive Elite status (which I got by matching Executive Platinum status years ago) to get a free upgrade to an Audi, and made my way down south to Haley’s home, getting all the way from Sydney to her side in just over 30 hours from when I booked my ticket.

Friday, Texas

My beautiful cousin passed away peacefully on Friday.  I’ll leave out any details aside from saying that we are devastated but are seeing the beauty of how her story impacted so many millions of people around the world.

Miles and points: worth it.

I’m not about to sell you a credit card or analyse (ooo look at me using the Australian vernacular) which program is best.  I even think over the years miles and points have lost a lot of their value, considering the amount of time it takes, on average, to fully maximise (!) their value.  

But this week I was thankful for airline miles.  They got me home in time to say goodbye and be there for my family.  Perhaps miles and/or points as an insurance policy is really the last bastion of why I keep accruing them, I don’t know.  I’ve done the aspirational flights, been to some amazing places, and love my lounges.  But none of that mattered to me this week.  Getting to say goodbye to Haley is what mattered, and getting there in a way that I could rest and didn’t bankrupt me was such an immense blessing.

So I will still accrue miles and points, and I will remain thankful to American Airlines for a great ride home.

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