Did you ever have to use a ‘Bereavement Fare‘ in case of family emergencies such as a death of a relative that required you to travel in the very last minute?
While it has been longstanding practice for airlines in North America and select other markets to offer some discounts to people who had to travel after a death in the family, this is slowly going away.
Bereavement fares are applicable when a passenger needs to travel due to death or imminent death of an immediate family member. Guidelines in regards to this vary from airline to airline but one has to look very carefully these days to find an airline that even offers such fares.
American Airlines and United Airlines for example have done away with such discounts about two years ago but still offer to waive change/cancellation fees in some circumstances. Delta Airlines and Air Canada still offer direct discounts in case of a verifiable emergency.
I was talking about this about two weeks ago with a friend of mine who had such a case but ended up using some miles because it was simply the best option to get something booked on a moments notice.
Then yesterday the Los Angeles Times (access here) had a story on just this topic as well.
… So-called bereavement fares are an endangered species. American and United did away with them in 2014. American was the first to pull the trigger.
The airline said at the time that it remained “committed to doing all we can to relieve the burden of our customers in times of need.” But it said bereavement fares were no longer needed “because walk-up fares are generally lower than in the past.”
United followed suit shortly afterward. Of the three remaining legacy carriers, only Delta Air Lines continues to offer bereavement fares.
I don’ t agree with the article because it focuses mostly on criticizing the airlines for taking this feature away while their profit went op to record heights in the last two years. It also cites a case where passengers were promised a refund that didn’t materialize because they went through the refund website even though they were already on the phone with an agent (who would have processed/forwarded that manually).
One also has to consider that nowadays you will almost always be able to find a cheaper fare online or through your travel agent than calling up the airline and getting a small 10% discount on some semi-flex fare that is eligible for Bereavement Discounts. There are always exceptions but usually it simply is that way.
You can access the conditions for Delta Airlines here.
Air Canada has details about their Bereavement Fare on this page.
American Airlines simply states:
American Airlines does not provide emergency or bereavement fares. We do offer customers flexible fare options when booking last minute travel for a variety of reasons.
This can mean everything or nothing, I wouldn’t rely on it but I found that most AA Ticket I purchases has a policy in their fare conditions that fees would be waived in case of a death of family member or illness of the passenger himself if verification is provided. It’s always worth to read the fare conditions if you have a chance, sometimes it’s not required to buy extra insurance for such matters.
When you have a close family member on the brink of life and death the last thing you have in mind is bargaining for a few percent off your airfare but some people don’t have miles and only limited financial resources. The world has become a much smaller place with migration all over the world being a normality now.
Even if someone just has to travel within North America the distances are great and last minute travel can be expensive. It’s important to consider all options and as I recommended always pull up the current fares on Expedia to compare. If you have miles, my personal policy is to always keep enough miles in reserve for one international Business Class ticket in case of such emergencies.