Airline policies in the case of an emergency or death
Booking a flight in the wake of an emergency or loved one’s death is overwhelming, and oftentimes done in a haze of grief.
To assist mourning passengers, airlines for years have offered bereavement fare discounts. More recently, airlines have begun phasing these discounted fares. While several airlines still offer bereavement fares (also known as compassion fares), policies and potential savings vary significantly from airline to airline.
Bereavement fares are typically open to immediate family members only. Passengers who qualify must provide both proof of kinship and proof of death or imminent death, oftentimes including the deceased person’s name, plus the name and phone number of a hospital, hospice or funeral home.
Although airlines’ bereavement fares are discounted, they usually apply to unrestricted, full-fare ticket prices. Discount carriers that offer low-cost fares typically don’t offer bereavement discounts. While the savings may sound like a steal compared to full-price fares, the costs can add up.
Fortunately, official bereavement fares aren’t the only choice, and the price savings can be significant. Two especially good alternatives are last-minute flight specials and package deals. While not an obvious choice, package deals with hotels and rental cars included can be a good choice, especially for passengers flying far from home.
Steps for finding affordable fares:
- Find out if your airline has bereavement or emergency fare policies by calling or checking their websites. Do this for two or three airlines, and compare prices.
- See online if airlines have any web-only special fares or time-sensitive deals.
- Check out last-minute fares, as they can sometimes be cheaper.
- Consider package deals that include hotel and a rental car; particularly if you’re not staying with relatives and need your own transportation, packages are sometimes more economical and even cheaper than discounted bereavement flights.
|Air Canada||Applicable to immediate family members. Discounts offered on select round-trip and one-way flights when booked within seven days of traveling internationally or 10 days of traveling in North America. At the airport, passengers must present a death certificate or physician’s note indicating imminent death.|
|Alaska Airlines||Applicable to immediate family members only. Discount good within seven days of travel. Bereavement fares can be booked by calling 1-800-252-7522.|
|Delta Airlines||Applicable to “immediate family,” which Delta defines as including grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and step-siblings. Bereavement fares apply in cases of death or, for international travel, imminent death. Bereavement fares offer added flexibility in case of changes in your itinerary. Fares can be booked by calling 800-221-1212 (domestic travel) or 800-241-4141 (international travel).|
|Lufthansa||Bereavement fares are available in case of death for journeys starting in the US or Canada. For information and to book, travelers should call 1-800-645-3880.|
Depending on your needs, these options may be more suitable than bereavement fares:
- For travel to large domestic airports, the best rates are found on comparison sites.
- For domestic routes between smaller airports, low-cost carriers offer good deals, but last-minute fares are often cheaper.
- For those traveling to international destinations, packages are the most economical – the airfare savings can offset the cost of a hotel.
Finding yourself suddenly needing to find a flight due to the death of a loved one or a family emergency is never pleasant, but these tips can help save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the real reasons for your travels.
(Main image: Georgie Pauwels)