Bereavement fares

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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. At one time, many airlines offered bereavement fare — discounted flights offered to relatives and close friends who need to travel at the last minute for this worst case scenario. Unfortunately, most airlines have discontinued this offering in the last few years. However, even the bereavement fares that still exist, may not be the cheapest option.

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.

What is a bereavement fare?
Do bereavement fares still exist?
Are bereavement fares the cheapest option?
What are my other options for finding a bereavement fare?

What is a bereavement fare?

To assist mourning passengers, for years, many airlines offered bereavement fare discounts. More recently, most 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.

Generally speaking, when you can find them, 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.

Do bereavement fares still exist?

In recent years, bereavement fares have mostly become a thing of the past. With the addition of budget airlines, low-cost carriers and basic economy fares, the saving offered by bereavement fare discount, while attractive compared to full fare tickets, couldn’t quite stack up.

That said, while most airlines no longer offer bereavement fares, there are a few that still do — Delta Air Lines, Air Canada and WestJet in Canada, as well as Lufthansa.

While even most airlines acknowledge on their information pages that cheaper fares than the bereavement fare can often be found, the biggest perk of the bereavement fare is the flexibility provided when it comes to changing an itinerary. To book bereavement fares, you should call the airline directly.

Airline Details
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. Call 1-888-247-2262 for more information and to book.
Delta Air Lines Applicable to immediate family. 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 only be booked by calling 800-221-1212 (domestic travel) or 800-241-4141 (international travel). Please note, fares under Delta’s bereavement policy are subject to availability.
Lufthansa Bereavement fares are available in case of death for journeys starting in the U.S. or Canada. For information and to book, travelers should call 1-800-645-3880.
 WestJet WestJet offers bereavement fares to those who have had a death in their immediate family and to guests traveling to funerals for firefighters, police officers, military personnel or emergency services personnel who have died in the line of duty. For information and to book, call 1-888-937-8538

Are bereavement fares the cheapest option?

Although airlines’ bereavement fares are discounted, they usually apply to unrestricted, full-fare ticket prices. While the savings may sound like a deal compared to the full-price fare, the costs can add up and will likely not compare to lower cost tickets you can find elsewhere.

Fortunately, official bereavement fares aren’t the only choice, and the price savings can be significant.

What are my other options for finding a bereavement fare?

Steps for finding affordable fares:

Pick up the phone — If you’re in need of a last-minute flight for this type of emergency, making a phone call can mean significant savings. First, oftentimes the best fares remain unpublished or last-minute deals can arise. Second, speaking to a person on the phone and explaining your situation, may reveal options you hadn’t considered. It never hurts to ask. Make a few phone calls and compare your options, but when you think you’ve found a price that works for you, jump on it.

Consider package deals — Consider package options that include hotel and a rental car; particularly if you’re not staying with relatives and need your own transportation, but even if you don’t need the hotel or car. Packages are sometimes more economical and even cheaper than discounted bereavement flights. For those traveling to international destinations, packages are the most economical – the airfare savings can offset the cost of a hotel.

Consider alternative airports — For domestic routes between smaller airports, low-cost carriers offer good deals. Even if the area you are flying into or out of has a major airport, consider nearby alternatives that may be cheaper. Flying to Los Angeles? Consider Long Beach over LAX. Need to be in New York? Consider all your options, from JFK and LaGuardia to Newark and Philadelphia.

Take a red-eye or connecting flights — Red-eyes (or late evening flights in general) are generally cheaper than flying at a peak time. A general rule to remember: Fly when most people would rather be eating or sleeping. Similarly, for more savings, consider a flight with a connection instead of a direct flight.

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Editor’s note: We revised this post on Jan. 5, 2017 to make sure it’s up-to-date and comprehensive. We do our best to bring you the most timely information, but until superhuman speed is perfected, we can only move so fast. Please always double check current policies with your airline or agent before you book. 

Bereavement fares was last modified: May 10th, 2021 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.