It's an unfortunate inevitability for many: making last-minute plane reservations for a funeral of a loved one. In a time of emotional upheaval, it's hard to think about dollars and cents when it comes to air travel, but there are decisions to be made.
"I did shop around," Diaz says. "There were no discounts, and the fares were outrageous."
Finding a discounted fare can be daunting, but airlines that do offer bereavement fares often do so by availability, length of stay, destination, class and whether it's a nonstop flight. For many carriers, the customer is offered the lowest available advance-purchase fare -- but there is far from an industry standard.
American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith says the Dallas-based carrier tries to split the difference with its bereavement fare discount.
"We have never portrayed or tried to say we are the least expensive fare out there," he says. "But it tends to be kind of in the middle between a full walk-up fare and an advance purchase, leisure type."
This philosophy, Smith says, tends to keep people honest. The airline may ask for a phone number to a funeral home or hospital to verify information, but it's not mandatory. The airline also is very "liberal," as Smith says, in applying the fare. An uncle or a distant relative or even dear friend can qualify, he says.
Fares and conditions vary across airlines
Some airlines, American included, also allow discounted fares for medical emergencies and flexible return dates. These policies vary though, so discussion of such issues is a must.
A random check of American Airlines for a last-minute bereavement fare in mid-March between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Phoenix for four days was $692 as compared to the $851 normal cost.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines also offers bereavement fares. It cost $425 for a similar flight between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Phoenix for the same time frame under the bereavement policy, as compared to the walk-up rate of $595.
To help those searching the Web for bereavement fares, Bankrate conducted a small survey of major airlines to see which offered the discounted rate. Here are the results as well as the conditions of qualifying for the discounts.
Airline bereavement conditions/details
|Bereavement fare offered?||Conditions and restrictions||Family members included for discount|
(888) 247-2262Air Canada
|Yes||The traveler must fly within seven days of booking and can't stay more than 30 days.||Family members eligible for reduced airfare include: spouse (includes common-law and same-sex partners); child (includes adopted, grandchild and great-grandchild); parent (includes stepparent, grandparent, great-grandparent, parent-in-law and common-law parent-in-law); daughter, son, father and mother (includes legal, in-law, common-law in-law and in-law); brother and sister (includes stepsibling, half-sibling, in-law and common-law in-law); aunt, uncle, niece and nephew (including those of spouse and common-law spouse); legal guardian with proof of judgement; and spouse of legal guardian.|
(800) 237-2747Air France
|Yes||Travel is offered between metropolitan France and the French overseas departments (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion and French Guiana). Air France does not offer special fares for any other destination, but many insurance policies reimburse airline tickets in this case. For more information, check with your insurance company, travel insurance provider or the insurance policy associated with your credit card.||Not available.|
(800) 433-7300American Airlines
|Yes||Fares are flexible based on availability. The return date is flexible, and verification may be required. Fares are available for medical emergencies as well.||The reduced airfare is flexible depending on the situation. The traveler must call for more details.|
(800) 433-7300Delta Air Lines
|Yes||Reservations must be made by phone. Verification is required, and domestic travel must occur within three days of the death of the immediate family member.||Family members eligible for reduced airfare include: spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, stepbrother, stepsister, parent, stepparent, grandchild, grandparent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and fiance.|
|El Al Israel|
|Yes||The traveler must provide a medical certificate.||Not available.|
|Yes||The traveler must make a one-week advance purchase.||Not available.|
(800) 241-6522United Airlines
|Yes||There is a 10 percent discount, including visits to a seriously ill or injured family member. The airline also offers "after travel compassion" fares where you can apply for the discount with documentation.||The family members eligible include: adopted ward, aunt, brother, brother-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, domestic partner, father, father-in-law, foster brother, foster daughter, foster father, foster mother, foster sister, foster son, granddaughter, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, half-brother, half-sister, husband, legal guardian, mother, mother-in-law, nephew, niece, sister, sister-in-law, son, son-in-law, stepbrother, stepdaughter, stepfather, stepmother, stepsister, stepson, uncle and wife.|
Note: Except for United Airlines, bereavement discounts are based on availability, route and length of stay.