American Airlines Kills Bereavement Discount – Why it's No Big Deal

There’s been a lot of moaning over American Airlines’ decision to drop its bereavement fares – those discounts on last-minute flights for emergency travel due to a death in the family – but for a variety of reasons, it really isn’t that big a deal. For one thing, American’s discount was never guaranteed. For another, it didn’t save much. Finally, airlines have been shedding these discounts for years now.

See three tips below to save on last-minute flights.

Change in American’s Bereavement Policy

American’s new “no bereavement fares” policy brings it in line with new merger partner US Airways which does not offer this discount. Also, American never guaranteed its bereavement fares; last fall, for example, the AA website stated only that it “may” offer emergency fares and passengers had to call reservations to find out if they were eligible. According to reports, the discount was 5 percent.

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How Much Did Bereavement Fares Save

Last-minute flights are very expensive, so any savings is attractive but some airline bereavement fares may actually cost more than other fares offered by the same carrier. For example, Delta offers a bereavement discount but warns that “lower promotional fares may be available” on its website and that these “may serve as a better option” than its bereavement fares.

Disappearing Bereavement Fares

American is not alone; other airlines have either quietly discontinued bereavement fares or never offered them in the first place and and these include JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America.

Airlines that still offer bereavement fares include:

Alaska: An unspecified bereavement fare is offered in the case of the death of an immediate family member but the discount is “only available within 7 days of travel.” No discounts are offered for strictly medical or emergency travel. ┬áNote: Bereavement fares are only available by calling reservations. Find more information by clicking on Alaska’s website avatar Ask Jenn and typing in “bereavement.”

Delta: Bereavement tickets vary in price and apply only to the death or imminent death of a family member. The fares cannot be purchased online but only by calling the airline. Also note: Bereavement tickets “are subject to availability and may not be available at time of booking.”

United: The airline offers a 5 percent discount on what it calls compassion fares which include situations involving the death or serious illness of family members ranging from in-laws, domestic partners, nieces and nephews and more.

How to Save on Last-Minute Travel

A bereavement fare may not be the best deal. Before you travel, try the following.

1. Always compare prices: If you only go to one airline site, you may not get the best deal. And you may be surprised to learn that no single airline always has the cheapest fares.

2. Use miles: See if you can use miles for the trip or even as partial payment. Check to see if you can buy or borrow more from family or friends.

3. Be flexible: We know in most cases you want to get to your destination as quickly as possible but if you can spare some time, try these tips.

  • Drive further: This may be necessary in order to fly hub-to-hub, since larger airports generally offer cheaper fares.
  • Fly overnight: Take a red-eye or fly at dawn, since these flights are usually cheaper.
  • Compare routes: In some cases, connecting flights are cheaper than non-stops.

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Published: February 27, 2014