What Are the Airlines' Policies on Bereavement Flights?

In times of emergency when you have to fly for a family funeral, or to see a terminally ill relative, shopping around for airfares is probably the last thing you want to think about. Many airlines have a special bereavement flight, or compassionate fare, which is offered to family members traveling for a death in the family, or imminent death. There are other considerations, too—transporting cremated remains, for example—and the procedures you will likely follow.

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    Airplane wing and dramatic clouds, with flare
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    The fares apply to Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express, and the carrier warns that lower fares may be available on its website. The rules for bereavement fares are: travel must start within seven days of booking in the case of international travel and within 10 days of booking if you’re traveling within North America. You can't stay more than 30 days in the case of international travel. The fares are fixed discounts off specific, unrestricted, full fares, or the waiving of specific terms and conditions on many Air Canada markets. 

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    The Seattle-based carrier 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 the fare is only available within seven days of travel. To book a bereavement ticket, contact the carrier’s Reservations Department.

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    The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier stopped offering bereavement airline fares in February 2014. Instead, the airline said it offers air travelers flexible fare options when booking last-minute travel for a variety of reasons. 

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    In the event of a death or imminent death (for international travel) in a traveler's immediate family, the Atlanta-based carrier gives flexibility on its best published fares for last-minute travel as required. Fares can only be booked by calling the airline's Reservation Sales department; they are not available at delta.com. Tickets are subject to availability. The airline's bereavement policy provides flexibility to on the return portion of a trip by waiving service fees, but fare differences may still apply. Sometimes lower promotional fares may be available on delta.com or through Delta Reservation Sales.

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    In the case of a death of a travel companion or an immediate family member, the Denver-based airline will allow travelers to change travel dates, times, and/or destination for up to 90 days from the original date of purchase with no change fee. But any difference in the will be applied. Requests must be made via the carrier's Reservations Department.

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    The Honolulu-based carrier offers what it calls Neighbor Island Emergency Travel. It offers low interisland fares under the following terms: You must be an immediate family member to the hospitalized or deceased, have proof of that relationship, travel within 48 hours of ticketing, and travel wholly within Hawaii.

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    The New York-based carrier officially does not offer bereavement fares. But on its website, it says immediate family in need of bereavement travel may call 1-800-JETBLUE to speak to a representative who may be able to assist.

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    The Dallas-based carrier does not offer bereavement fares. The airline touts its everyday affordable fares that are published on Southwest.com, noting that it doesn't charge fees for travelers' first two checked bags or when travel plans change.

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     The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based ultra low-cost carrier is pretty blunt: "Our fares are already very low, and we are unable to offer additional discounts."

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    The Chicago-based carrier does not offer bereavement fares. But for a $50 fee, it will allow travelers to get a refund on even a nonrefundable ticket.

    Edited by Benet Wilson