Disappearing Discounts: Find Senior, Bereavement and Military Deals

Here’s the low down on discounts: Most don’t exist anymore – and when they did, they only knocked off about 10% from your airfare. But a few discounts remain and here’s how to find them (and you can read more about this in my latest weekly column for ABCNews).

Listen as travel expert Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott share personal experiences:

Senior Deals

These used to be routine but have faded in popularity due to economic pressures like razor-thin airline profit margins and the ever-fluctuating price of oil. As one carrier put it, “Because our fares are already discounted to all customers, we do not offer additional discounts or special fares for the following situations: bereavement, age, disability, or clergy.”

However, there are still a few senior discounts especially with the older legacy carriers – but, not all these deals may be worth it. Look at the following samples to see why.

10 tips to save on every single flight

Click the airline name for more information.

  • American: The airline may offer senior fares in “some domestic markets” for those 65 or older, but a recently priced senior fare for a flight from New York to LA cost the same as a regular fare.
  • Delta: The airline may offer senior discounts “in certain markets” but you must call for information and Delta charges a phone fee of $25 (to be fair, they may waive this fee).
  • JetBlue: No senior discounts
  • Southwest: They do have senior airfares, but these tickets can be much higher than regular fares. Example: Senior fare on a flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was $471; the regular fare was $234. Besides the price, the difference was the senior fare was fully refundable.
  • United: The airline offers senior fares to some destinations for passengers 65 and older but again, on a recent flight from New York to Los Angeles, the senior fare cost the same as the regular ticket.

For more information, go to the airline’s website and enter “senior” in the searchbox.

Bereavement Deals

These have disappeared from most airlines too. Here’s a sampling of the offerings that remain.

  • Alaska: Bereavement fares are offered in the case of the death of an immediate family member but the discount is “only available within 7 days of travel and must be booked in advance.” No indication what the discount is.
  • American: The airline “may offer” emergency fares, but you must call reservations to find out more about them.
  • United: The airline offers compassion fares and they probably cover more ground than any other carrier with discounts for death or serious illness and this includes in-laws, domestic partners, nieces and nephews and more. However, the discount is only 5%. Be sure to compare prices before going with the discount.

For more information, go to the airline’s website and enter “bereavement” or “compassion” or “emergency fare” in the searchbox.

Military Deals

These days, nearly all airlines offer some kind of military discount, especially relief from overweight or oversize baggage fees which can cost hundreds of dollars. Here are some examples of discounts:

  • JetBlue: A variety of perks including discounted or waived fees but you must call the airline to learn more.
  • Southwest: Military passengers traveling on active duty or permanent change-of-station orders are exempt from the two-piece baggage limit and will not be subject to excess, oversize, or overweight baggage charges.
  • United: The carrier offers military leisure fares for personnel and eligible family members traveling on leave. The airline also discounts pet transport fees from Japan where so many U.S. military are based

For more information, go to the airline’s website and enter “military” in the searchbox.

More from Rick Seaney:

Disappearing Airline Discounts: What’s Gone, What’s Left


Published: September 3, 2013