If you’ve ever had to book a flight within a week of your departure date, you’ve probably cried or broken something upon seeing the outrageously high prices. A flight that would cost $200 if booked two months in advance could very likely set you back $1,200 if booked two days in advance. But life isn’t fair, and sometimes you don’t have a chance to plan ahead. Death is one of those times. Sure, it would be much more convenient if the Grim Reaper could give at least two weeks notice, but he’s not that considerate.
Fortunately, some airlines are. Most major airlines will cut you slack if you have to buy a ticket at the last minute to attend the final services of an immediate relative. Technically, your immediate relative doesn’t even have to be dead. As long as you can prove death is imminent, some airlines will still discount your fare.
This discounted fare is known as a bereavement or compassion fare, and it could save you a lot of money. When my grandma passed away last June, and I had to fly home with only a day’s warning, I saved $200 by taking advantage of Delta’s bereavement fare. It would have cost $800+ to book my flight online, but by calling Delta and explaining my situation, I got my flight for $600. To be honest, I showed up a day after my scheduled flight, but they felt sorry for me and got me out on the next flight at no extra charge.
To be eligible for a bereavement fare, usually the airline will ask you for the name and relation of your relative as well as the name and contact number of his or her doctor, hospital, or funeral home. But different airlines have different policies, and for a breakdown of bereavement fares by airline, see this article. As airline policies tend to change before the ink is dry, it’s best to check directly with the airline. Sure you may have to do some searching online or spend a little time on the telephone, but it pays off.
For example, my grandpa died yesterday. I’m in New York, but his funeral will be held in Montana early next week. A quick search shows that a roundtrip ticket from Albany to Billings, leaving two days from now, will cost $1448. However, last night I spent exactly 14 minutes on the phone with a Delta representative who was able to get me the same itinerary for $1090. That’s a savings of $358, or almost $26 per minute that I spent on the phone. Usually Delta charges $25 to book a domestic flight over the phone, but because bereavement fares are not offered online, they waive the fee. They also waive their $200 change fee should the traveler need to make changes to his or her return trip.
Depending on the size of your family, you could save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of bereavement fares. I hope you don’t have to, but should you find yourself in these circumstances, at least you now know how to lessen the blow. The question is, how long will airlines offer these discounted fares?
- For information about Delta’s bereavement fare policy, see here.
- For information about United’s bereavement fare policy, see here.
- For information about American Airlines’ bereavement fare policy, see here.
- For information about Air Canada’s bereavement fare policy, see here.