Family medical emergency and bereavement fares have become harder to find in the past year as some airlines have eliminated them altogether.
The excuse is that competition among airlines has brought prices down to the point that they just can’t afford to reduce them any further – yeah right! We all know that last minute tickets with a flexible return date can often reach the $1,000 range.
Thankfully three of the major US airlines still make it a point to assist folks during family medical emergencies – Northwest Airlines (800-225-2525), United Airlines (800-241-6522) and American Airlines (800-433-7300) all offer bereavement and family medical emergency fares. Here are the steps you will need to take in order to obtain a bereavement or family medical emergency ticket:
1) You’ll need to phone the airline’s reservation department – information is nonexistent online for these types of tickets. They don’t even admit that they have such fares on their websites! Tell the agent you need an emergency ticket and what the circumstances are.
2) You must be an immediate family member of the ill or deceased person. Although (depending on the agent) airlines have been known to stretch the rules a bit if you have a compelling circumstance.
3) You’ll need the following information in front of you so the reservation agent can verify the circumstances of your request:
Your relative’s full name
Name and phone number of the hospital or medical facility
Name and phone number of the attending physician
Name and phone number of the funeral home
With luck the transaction can be taken care of in the course of one phone call, so be prepared with your desired dates and time of travel before placing the phone call. If the agent you get at first doesn’t seem able or willing to deal with your request, hang up and dial in again – or ask to speak with a supervisor.
Finally, you may want to check on Kayak.com or other search engine to see what a standard ticket would cost before making your phone call. You may find that there is a less expensive option available online with a low cost carrier. Also do a search on Hotwire and Priceline where last minute airfares are often substantially reduced. Here’s hoping you won’t need an emergency ticket, but it’s good to know which airlines are ready to assist you if you do.