It's an unfortunate reality, but booking travel isn't always for a fun getaway.
If a loved one passes away, you might need to book a last-minute flight, which is generally an expensive prospect. This is when airline bereavement fares come into play—discounted rates for grieving passengers who've had a death (or have an imminent death) of a family member.
At one point, all three U.S. legacy carriers—Delta, American, and United—offered bereavement discounts to passengers booking a flight on short notice due to a deceased or dying relative. American and United, however, both ended the practice in 2014.
"Last-minute fares have generally decreased, making bereavement discounts less valuable for travelers," United said when it canceled the policy, which had offered customers a 5 percent bereavement discount. That statement makes a solid point: bereavement fares aren't always the best deal out there—especially with the proliferation of low-cost airlines and cheaper airfares in general—so it's best to compare prices if there's time. Many other airlines have also nixed the service based on this logic, while some budget carriers, like Southwest and JetBlue, never offered them in the first place.
Several airlines do still offer special services or discounts to those who suddenly need to travel due to a loved one's death. That's fortunate because when a travel emergency occurs, it's good to have as many options as possible. Keep in mind that to get most of these cheaper rates, you must call the airline reservation number to book. Depending on the airline policy, you'll also want some information on hand, like the name and contact information of your loved one's doctor or hospital, funeral home, and date of the service.
So in a nut shell:
- Take the time to call the airline and discuss your situation.
- Secure a death certificate from your doctor or family in case it is asked for.
It's important to be with family.