Bereavement Fares: The Best Airlines For Compassion Fares
Update: This continues to be a very popular post so I thought I’d update the information since airline policies for bereavement fares tend to change. But first I’d like to thank all of the travelers who wrote about their experiences in the comments section of this post. I know that losing a loved one is hard and booking a compassion fare is very stressful. Your advice is wonderful and you’re helping other people navigate this challenging period.
General Info: Bereavement or compassion fares aren’t always the best option for those traveling at the last minute. Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Pros: A bereavement, compassion, or emergency fare is a heavily discounted fare–typically 50% off the highest unrestricted fare. These fares offer travelers lots of flexibility from being fully refundable to allowing date and schedule changes at no additional cost–but the rules vary by airline. If you’re not sure when you want to arrive or return, this might be the best choice for you.
Cons: 50% off an unrestricted fare sounds pretty good–until you do the math. In today’s competitive travel marketplace, virtually no one buys full-price fares and even half off an unrestricted fare can be hundreds more than the lowest online fare. You’ll probably be able to find a much cheaper flight through a quick Internet search and don’t forget to check Flight + Hotel prices too. Vacation packages tend to be your best value at the last minute and everybody can’t stay at Aunt Judy’s house!
Plus, most airlines only offer compassion fares to immediate family members and they’re limited to death or medical emergencies. And they typically require the name of the deceased or ill family member and the contact information for the funeral home or doctor. You may also have to mail in a copy of the death certificate, which could be a painful and annoying errand.
Policies by Airline: Here are the bereavement fare policies for some major North American airlines. Please note US Airways, AirTran, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Virgin America do not offer bereavement, compassion, or emergency fares.
Air Canada: No bereavement fares are offered for travel within Canada, to or from the U.S., and to an assortment of other destinations.
Delta/Northwest Airlines: You must call 800-221-1212 to book. Changes and refunds are permitted. Please see the comments below about working with them.
United: My friend got a great compassion fare from United. They offer 10% off the lowest available fare.
American Airlines: The website just says to call, so I went for it. I priced out a ticket from SFO to ATL leaving the next morning. Their program works like this. Each route has a fixed, reduced price and customers are allowed to change their flight as much as needed.
The customer service representative was very kind and priced out my ticket. Normally to leave the following day on that route, it would be $1,006 round-trip. But the bereavement fare was $623.80. And the bereavement fare does not fluctuate in price–nor are you charged change fees. This means you can stay as long as you need and change your ticket many times without coughing up more dough. This might be a good option if your plans are uncertain.
Continental Airlines: Continental offers a sliding scale of discounts on bereavement fares. You can save 5% on round-trip tickets up to $499, 10% on round-trip tickets up to $999, and 20% on round-trip tickets $1,000 and over.
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