What is a bereavement fare?

When you are facing the loss of a loved one, flying last minute to say goodbye to someone who is dying or to a loved one’s funeral can be a financial hardship. To help alleviate the costs of such a plane ticket, certain airlines offer “bereavement fares”: discounted tickets for those whose immediate family member has passed away.

This discount can make an already difficult time a little easier but, be careful, the discounted fare isn’t often the cheapest fare available for your destination. The discount amount will vary by airline and only applies to the cost of the ticket. The ticket holder must still pay any standard baggage fees. Other airlines or even an airline’s online search may also offer a cheaper ticket without the bereavement fare. It is always a good idea to check around before making your final purchase.

Who qualifies for a bereavement fare?

You qualify for a bereavement fare if someone in your immediate family has passed away or are facing imminent death, including your spouse’s family. (See the list below for the types of qualifying relationships.) Bereavement fares are not for the loss of friends, co-workers, or cousins. If you are wondering if your situation qualifies, call the airline to check if it falls under their policy.

  • Spouse: domestic partner, husband, or wife
  • Parent: mother, father, step-father, step-mother, legal guardian
  • Child: daughter, son, offspring, step-child, step-daughter, step-son
  • Sibling: brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister
  • Grandparent: grandmother, grandfather
  • Grandchild: grandson, granddaughter
  • Parents’ siblings: aunt, uncle
  • Sibling’s children: niece, nephew, sibling
  • In-laws: mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.

If you have children flying with you, kids under the age of two fly for free and those over two qualify for the same discounted airfare as you.

Which airlines offer a bereavement fare?

There are several major airlines offering bereavement fares. Each airline has a different set of policies around bereavement fares such as the travel window available in relation to the person’s death (see below). For specific information on days of travel, proof of death required, and what kinds of discounts they offer, check their websites or call their customer service lines.

  • Delta – Travel must occur within seven days of the person’s death
  • Alaska Airlines – Travel must occur within seven days of purchasing the ticket
  • Air Canada – Travel must occur within ten days of the person’s death and travel can last no longer than 60 days
  • West Jet – Travel must occur within thirty days of purchase for both the outbound and return flights
  • Lufthansa – Lufthansa will discount a round trip from the US or Canada to Europe

Not all airlines offer bereavement fares. Over the last decade, some airlines have discontinued their programs and discount airlines such as Southwest and Frontier have never offered bereavement fares. Before calling an airline and purchasing your ticket, make sure you check a variety of airlines for a regular ticket price. Many times, an airline’s regular ticket may be cheaper than another airline’s bereavement fare.

How do I get the airline’s discounted bereavement fare?

To obtain a bereavement fare, you must call the customer service line of the airline you want to fly with to speak with a customer service representative directly. Bereavement fares are never offered online, they are only sold over the phone with proof of your loss.

While bereavement fares are open to the public, some airlines only sell them to members of their reward programs. To sign-up (all programs are free to join), simply login to the airline’s website and sign up for free. You can then call the airline as a qualifying member. Each person flying over age 18 needs to have their own member number.

What should I do before I call the airline?

Before you call an airline to purchase a bereavement fare, there are several steps you need to take to make sure you are getting the best deal:

    1. Pick your route: Decide what airports you can fly into and out of to get where you need to go.
    2. Check other fares: Search online on third party websites and a variety of airlines including the one you want to call that are flying that route to know the cost of their tickets. There could be a lower price somewhere else, or the airline might be having a sale to the city you’re going to. Bereavement fares aren’t automatically the lowest price on offer and a few extra minutes of research can pay dividends.
    3. Choose which airline to call: The airlines offering bereavement fares each have different policies and cities they fly to. Evaluate which airline offering these fares would best fit with your travel plans and route and make sure you check their page for their lowest price before you call.
    4. Gather proof of death or imminent death: Gather the required information to relay to the customer service representative so you are ready to make the purchase with as little trouble to yourself as possible. Some airlines require this information upfront while some require the paperwork after your trip. Check the specific airline for details of what their requirements are. Depending on your situation, the needed information may include:
      • The name of the deceased person
      • Your relationship to that person
      • Death certificate
      • The name and phone number of the funeral home, hospital, or hospice service
      • The name of the doctor if the information is available
    5. Join the airline’s rewards program: If you are not already a member of the airline’s reward program and they require membership to purchase a bereavement fare, go online and sign-up for free before calling the airline.

What do I do when I call the airline?

When you call the airline, explain your situation to the representative and they will walk you through what you need to do to qualify. They will then look up the route and time in question and they will be able to tell you the offered cost of the bereavement fare. When deciding if you want to purchase the fare offered, consider fees and taxes associated with the cost of other tickets available. Some fees may be removed for bereavement fares that you’ll have to pay with other purchases. At other times, tickets available on that airline’s website or through other discount airlines will be the better option.

What do I do if I have to cancel a trip?

If you have to cancel airline tickets you’ve already purchased due to someone in your family passing away, it may be worth it to call the airline directly to ask if they would be willing to refund your ticket without any cancellation fees. Some airlines, even if they don’t offer bereavement fares directly, may cancel or change your flights without charging extra fees due to a death in your family. Before you call, be prepared with the same information as you would need in order to apply for a bereavement fare including proof of the family member passing away or of their imminent death. Customer service representatives may have leeway in such cases, and it never hurts to ask.

Check out your options before flying

Traveling due to a bereavement isn’t easy. When you add the unexpected cost of a last-minute trip, the option of obtaining a bereavement fare can help financially during a difficult time. However, bereavement fares may not be the best option for you depending on other available ticket prices. Spending a couple of extra minutes researching your options can help alleviate your stress and financial impact during already emotional days.

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