As an expat with family at home, I'm dreading the inevitability of a panicked phone call from a relative at 2am demanding I come home quickly because something very bad has happened to someone I care about.
I'm aware that many airlines offer family-emergency or bereavement fares - but I noticed that these airlines' FAQs explain them in the context of the fare discount - there's no mention of last minute ticketing.
It's a trope in fiction for the protagonist to whistle for a cab to the airport, run to the ticket desk and demand "the next flight to France!" and 8 hours later he's saved his girlfriend from his high-school nemesis...
...but the problem is that I just can't find "the ticket desk" at any airport I've been to in recent years (Sea-Tac, Chicago O'Hare, Heathrow and Manchester) - instead each airline has their own ticket desk. If one is in a mad-panic and distraught I would expect one would not be able or willing to go up to each airline's ticket desk and ask if they can fit you on a flight to your intended destination. I've also noticed that those airlines desks are not always open all-hours, even though the airport might feature their flights departing 24/7.
Granted, an option exists to check on a site like Kayak or Expedia that would search all available flights from many airlines, but those sites don't work for ultra short-notice travel - especially if you might need to get a jump-seat ticket - indeed, I have heard of cases where even a cargo airline made accommodations for emergency passenger travel.
So imagine it's 2am, I get the call - I arrive at Sea-Tac airport in my pyjamas at 2:30am and I absolutely have to be at MAN as soon as possible - what do I do?