Airlines Continue to Cut Bereavement Airfares

Alaska Airlines - Bereavement Fares
••• Alaska Airlines at San Francisco International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

For the uninitiated, airlines used to offer last-minute discount air fares in cases where an immediate or close family member died.  I have used bereavement fares three times in my life, and I was grateful that this benefit was available. But that was then, and this is now. As airlines have looked at everything from bag fees to ticket change fees to improve their bottom lines, it's not a surprise that most have eliminated bereavement fares.

Many times when a death happens, it’s a surprise. Having planned three funerals in my life, it’s also not cheap. There’s the coffin, flowers, the handling of the body, the church/place for the ceremony, the service and the repast, among other things. So here’s my question: Would it ever occur to you to ask any of these vendors for a bereavement discount?

They are all businesses participating in the capitalist system that need to be paid the going rate in order to stay in business. Like it or not, airlines are also businesses that have shareholders and they need to look at the bottom line. As sad as a death is, and as cold as it seems, it’s not the airlines’ fault that someone died and you have to pay the going market rate for a ticket, which can be quite expensive if it's bought less than 30 days out.

As the years went by, bereavement fares became less and less discounted, getting to the point where they are mostly useless.

Among the remaining U.S. carriers still offering bereavement fares are:

  • Delta Air Lines: Doesn't necessarily offer a discounted fare, but there is some flexibility in its policies for changes.  Discounted fares are only available to Delta SkyMiles members.  Reservations must be made by phone.  Verification of a death is required, and domestic travel must occur within three days of the death of an immediate family member.  The carrier will waive ticketing penalties on a return trip, but fare differences may still apply.

  • Alaska Airlines: It offers a bereavement fare for flexible date tickets for those traveling due to the death of an immediate family member.  However, this fare may be more expensive than other available last-minute tickets, and it's only available within seven days of travel. To book a bereavement ticket, contact the carrier’s Reservations Department at 1-800-654-5669​.

  • Southwest: doesn't offer bereavement fares, but also allows changes without penalty or will give a credit to change flights.

If you really need a ticket, go to a discount ticket broker like Hotwire or Priceline. Hotwire actually offers bereavement fares offering up to 50 percent off full-fare tickets. I also did posts here and here on how to get last-minute discount airline tickets. You can also consider asking a friend or family member for frequent flyer miles. Or consider driving, if that’s an option.

Again, I’m one who has taken advantage of bereavement fares.  But most airlines don’t even offer these fares anymore, and the ones that do really don’t offer a true bargain. So it’s time to find another alternative.