Featured FAQ: Do Airlines Still Offer Bereavement Fares?

May 1, 2016

At one time many major airlines offered reduced fares for those passengers who were traveling last-minute due to a death or imminent death of a family member. However, those types of so-called bereavement fares are much less common nowadays and may not provide the most economical option.

11490412_sBereavement fares are mostly based on unrestricted, full fares and usually apply to immediate family members only. Passengers must provide both proof of kinship and proof of death or imminent death.

Although bereavement fares may provide more flexibility on travel plans, they are not necessarily the lowest fares available. Many carriers that still offer bereavement fares, such as Air Canada and Alaska Airlines, apply discounts only to unrestricted, full fares. Alaska Airlines offers a 15% discount for the death of an immediate family member but restricts discounts to full-fare refundable coach tickets that can be changed without penalty, which can be significantly more expensive than a nonrefundable economy ticket.

Many airlines, such as American and United, discontinued bereavement fares due to several factors, including cost-cutting measures, online discounts and fraud. With today’s technology, it became far too easy to create a fraudulent letter from a funeral home or doctor’s office as “proof” of the death of a loved one. The reduced fares were being abused by scammers and airlines found the time required for calling the funeral home or hospital to verify the death was too costly.

Some carriers that continue to offer bereavement accommodations, such as Delta, will only take reservations over the phone and may offer cheaper fares through their website or other online booking agencies, such as Expedia or Priceline which offer last-minute deals that can undercut so-called bereavement fares.

Often, the best bet is to look for lower-cost economy fares which are less expensive and less hassle.

Southwest Airlines does not offer bereavement or emergency fares but encourages passengers to take advantage of their every day low fares and liberal policies on baggage and change of plan fees. Other low-cost carriers such as JetBlue, AirTran, Virgin America, and Frontier make similar claims.

Delta offers additional flexibility to their lowest published fares, such as waiving service fees on the return portion of the trip, rather than a discounted fare. In addition, Delta’s Bereavement Policy only applies to Delta SkyMiles members for the death of immediate family members, but passengers can apply on the spot to be members of the program if not already enrolled. Delta does not require written proof and only asks for the name of the deceased, the passenger’s relation to that person, the name and phone number of the deceased’s funeral home, hospital or hospice and the name of his or her doctor.

German carrier Lufthansa “offers immediate family members special fares for outbound and return flights to attend the funeral if their journey starts in the USA or Canada.” Customers from the USA or Canada are requested to contact the Lufthansa reservations office, and the airline charges an additional $20 for booking the trip over the phone.

When it becomes necessary to book last-minute flights to attend a funeral service, memorial service or burial of a loved one, be sure to call the airline directly and confirm their policy on bereavement fares. Polices are continuing to evolve and the airline’s website might not be current. And be sure to check the web for special online fares, time-sensitive deals and last-minute fares which may be cheaper and easier than booking directly with the airline over the phone. If traveling overseas, package deals may be the most economical as the discounts on hotel or vehicles can offset other airfare savings.

Photo credit:  Dmytro Surkov/


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