Bereavement Fares Not As Common as Previously Thought

FareCompare readers may have heard of bereavement tickets, which are airline tickets purchased when a close relative is terminally ill or has died. Such fares are mostly a thing of the past, though a few airlines do still offer them. Bereavement fares are not necessarily lower than other airfares, and are usually discounted from full-fare tickets. Therefore, you may do better booking cheap tickets online rather than asking for a bereavement fare.

On the other hand, bereavement fares do tend to have more flexible travel rules, such as easier date changes and open return dates, and this can make them worth the cost over a discount, last-minute ticket. With some airlines, if you need a ticket in a hurry because of the loss of a loved one, you will not be charged the full fare that often comes with booking less than two weeks beforehand, and you may not be subject to ticket change fees as you would when normally booking cheap flights.

The Bereavement Fare Requirements
Airlines offering such fares (sometimes called “compassion fares”) have different requirements regarding documentation before issuing a bereavement fare ticket. They may need the name of the hospital or funeral home, or they may require a death certificate or a signed statement from a hospital. Since most bereavement fares have to be booked over the phone, it is a good idea to have as much of this information as possible when you make the call. Typically, these fares are offered to immediate family members, and the definition of “immediate family member” varies.

Most bereavement fares today are relegated to the traditional carriers, though even those may not offer you much of a discount.

You do have other alternatives when emergency travel is necessary:

  • Look to hub airports within driving distance for cheaper fares
  • If you have frequent flyer miles, consider using them to pay for the airfare
  • Consider a package deal. Sometimes a package deal can be cheaper than a last-minute, walk-in airfare, even if a hotel stay is added in.

Here is a list of major airlines and their bereavement fare policies.

Airline Bereavement Fare Policy
 AirTran AirTran does not offer bereavement fares
 Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines does not offer bereavement fares
 American Airlines Bereavement and emergency fares are sometimes available. Call American Airlines Reservations at 1-800-433-7300.
 

Continental Airlines

Continental offers special discounts on emergency or bereavement fares. They require the following information at the time of purchase for these fares:

  • Name of the relative
  • Relationship to the customer
  • Name, address and telephone number of funeral home, hospice, or hospital
  • Name of doctor (if applicable)

Qualifying relatives for compassion fares are listed here.

 

 Delta Airlines Compassion fares must be purchased by phone (800-221-1212). A list of relatives that qualify for these fares can be found here.
 Frontier Airlines Frontier Airlines does not offer bereavement fares
 JetBlue JetBlue does not offer bereavement fares
 Southwest Airlines Southwest does not offer bereavement fares
 United Airlines Compassion fares are 10 precent off any published fare for tickets purchased within six days of travel. Details can be found here.
 U.S. Airways U.S. Airways does not offer bereavement fares
 Virgin America Virgin America does not offer bereavement fares

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Published: December 6, 2011