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, but more recently have phased them out. Several airlines still offer bereavement fares, also known as compassion fares, but policies and potential savings vary significantly.
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 on unrestricted, full fares within seven days of travelBook at the airport or by phone: 1-888-247-2262|
|Alaska Airlines||Applicable to immediate family members onlyDiscount good within seven days of travelRequires advanced booking|
|American Airlines||Call for more details: 1-800-433-7300|
|Delta Air Lines||Applicable to all relatives, not just immediateFor death or imminent deathBook by phone: 1-800-750-3284|
Applicable to immediate family members only
For outbound and return flights starting in the US or Canada Call for more details: 1-800-645-3880
|United Airlines||Applicable to all relatives, not just immediate 5 percent off published fare within six days of travelFor death, hospice or hospitalizationBook by phone: 1-800-UNITED-1|
These options, depending on your needs, 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 to due to the death of a loved one or a family emergency is never pleasant, but these tips should help save time and energy, allowing you to focus on the real reasons for your travels.