The loss of a loved one is always a challenging experience. The situation becomes even more complicated if a family member has passed away in another city and you have to travel to that location. Odds are that you may find yourself facing the prospect of booking a flight. You may wonder what is available to you in the way of a so-called bereavement airfare.
History of Bereavement Fares
Airlines in the United States fairly consistently offered people bereavement fares. These were cut-rate tickets available to individuals who needed to fly on short notice for the funeral of a family member. In some cases, a cut-rate fare was also available to a person who needed to visit a terminally ill family member.
At the turn of the 21st century, U.S. airlines began to experience significant, even record-breaking, losses. As a consequence, airlines began looking for ways to save money. These included:
- Add-on fees for items like checked luggage
- Costs for onboard meals
- Fees to cancel flights
- Fees to change fights
- Charges for calling reservation centers
In addition to these types of charges and fees, airlines began the process of eliminating, or severely restricting, bereavement fares.
The Rise of Online Booking Sites and Bereavement Fares
The rise of online booking websites is also said to have contributed to the elimination of bereavement fees. In simple terms, individuals facing the need to buy a plane ticket on short notice are able to find affordable fares at the last minute via these websites. These include among others:
- Cranky Concierge
Bereavement Policies for 15 Airlines in North America
What follows are the bereavement airfare policies, or lack of them, for many major airlines operating in North America.
The airline does not offer bereavement fares. Rather, Aero Mexico the airline directs attention to their Fare Families program that offers three levels of fares:
The airline maintains that this particular program on its own provides affordable fares to people in need of booking without much notice, even for a trip to a family member’s funeral.
Unlike Aero Mexico, Air Canada does have bereavement fares. The same holds true for its sister airlines, Air Canada Rouge and Air Canada Express.
The rules for a bereavement fare is that travel must start within seven days of booking a ticket for international travel and 10 days of travel will be in North America. In the case of an international trip, you cannot stay longer than 30 days. Air Canada does make note that you may be able to find a cheaper ticket through an online vendor.
Alaska Airlines does offer bereavement fares. The airline does make note that purchasing a ticket online may be cheaper. A bereavement fare is only available within seven days of a flight. Customers can only book a bereavement fare by phone at (800) 252-7522.
Allegiant Air is known as an ultra-low-cost airline. Because of the ultra-low fares, the airline does not offer bereavement tickers. The airline will cancel at no charge an existing reservation if there is a death in a family.
The airline does not have bereavement fares. American Airlines stopped them in 2014. The airline does offer travelers what it describes as flexible fare options when booking last minute flight for an array of different reasons, including a death in the family.
Delta Airlines does offer bereavement fares. In order to access a bereavement fare, a person must be a member of the airline’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program. In order to obtain a bereavement fare, a person must provide documentation:
- Deceased individual’s name
- Passenger’s relationship to the deceased person
- Name and phone number of hospital, hospice, or funeral home
- Name of doctor
Children are charged the adult bereavement fare if it is less than the “regular” child’s fare. The first infant needs no ticket. A second infant must have a ticket in the manner of an older child. Only two infants are permitted on board per adult.
Bereavement fares can only be booked by phone. The number for making these reservations for domestic flights is (800) 221-1212 and (800) 241-4141 for international flights.
Frontier Airlines doesn’t have bereavement fares. The airline maintains it’s ultra-low fares satisfy this need. In addition, if a person has to change a trip because of a death in the family, the airline advises it is very flexible in this regard and doesn’t charge a fee in many situations.
Hawaiian Airlines does not have a bereavement program. The airline may permit a passenger to change or cancel an existing reservation if a death in the family occurs and the individual cannot take a planned flight.
Making this change or cancellation necessitates this documentation:
- Copy of death certificate
- Proof of relationship with the deceased individual
- Copy of ticket
The request for cancellation or refund, together with the referenced documentation, is mailed to:
Consumer Affairs Office
P.O. Box 30008
Honolulu, Hawaii 96820
In the alternative, the request and supporting documentation can be faxed to (808) 838-6777.
Headquartered in Mexico City, Interjet does not offer bereavement fares. The airline maintains it already has low fares. The airline does grant refunds of an existing ticket if a death in the family prevents travel.
JetBlue does officially does not have a bereavement fare program. Nonetheless, the airline indicates on its website that if an immediate family member dies, a person can call (800) JETBLUE and a representative of the airline may be able to provide assistance.
Southwest Airlines does not have bereavement fares. The airline maintains its regular fares are so low that bereavement fares are unnecessary. In addition, the airline notes a person can always change travel plans at no charge.
Another ultra low fare airline, Spirit does not offer bereavement fares. The airline states that because of its ultra-low fares, it is not able to offer additional discounts.
United Airlines ended its bereavement fare program in 2014. The program involved a 5 percent discount on tickets. The airline does work with people who have a preexisting ticket and then has a death in the family.
Another Mexican airline, Volaris does not have a bereavement fare program.
A Canadian airline, WestJet does have bereavement fares. These apply to people who have a death in their immediate families. They also have bereavement fares for people who are traveling to a funeral for certain public officials who died in the line of duty, whether family members or not. These are:
- Police officers
- Emergency services personnel
- Military personnel
Bereavement fares can be obtained by calling (888) 937-8538.
Armed with this essential information, you will be able to ascertain what is and is not available from different North American airlines when it comes to bereavement fares and other reduced ticket options.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Hall.