The recent consolidation of major airlines has resulted in big changes in the availability of Bereavement, and Family Emergency airfares for 2014. Earlier this week American Airlines (after merging with US Airways) announced that they will no longer offer bereavement airfares. This is a very discouraging trend, especially considering they are now the largest airline in the United States. Currently only two airlines in the United States still offer discounted Bereavement Fares:
Delta Airlines – Bereavement Fares
Delta offers discounted airfares to members of their SkyMiles loyalty program exclusively, so if you are not already a member, you will need to join before obtaining a bereavement ticket. This is a simple task that can be accomplished on the Delta.com website. Next you will need to phone a reservations agent at 800-221-1212. Bereavement Fares are only available by phone and are not offered on Delta’s website.
United Airlines – Compassion Fares
United Airlines offers a discount of 5% off of one-way or roundtrip airfares for emergency and bereavement situations. The fares can be purchased online or by phone at 800-864-8311.
You may find that the airfare discount is not substantial, but the relaxed re-booking and change policies can save significantly as change fees often run $250 on a standard ticket. This is an excellent benefit if you do not know how long you will need to be with your loved one.
Before trying to reserve a Bereavement Airfare, you should have the following information available:
- Full name of the family member and the reason for emergency travel
- Explain the family member’s relationship to you
- The name, address and phone number of the hospital and the name of the attending physician
- Or name, address and phone number of funeral home
Airlines who DO NOT offer Bereavement Airfares include: American, Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America and Spirit.
5 Strategies For Finding A Low Fare When A Bereavement Fare Is Not Available:
- Search for airfare on a consolidator site such as Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, etc. After identifying the airline with the lowest fare, pick up the phone and call the airline directly. Inform the agent of your circumstances and ask them to search for the lowest fare as well. Sometimes agents can identify seats that don’t appear online.
- Don’t forget to check Southwest Airlines (Southwest.com). They often have well priced “walk up” fares. Southwest does not allow their flights to be booked by any other site, so you won’t find their fares elsewhere – you have to contact them directly.
- Consider using your frequent flyer miles to obtain your emergency ticket.
- Price a vacation package that includes flight, hotel and perhaps a rental car. Often the “package” airfare will be substantially discounted.
- If you must pay full fare, check on business and first-class ticket prices. You may find that these tickets are the same price and come with upgraded perks.