Before the year 2000, U.S. airlines offered cut-rate bereavement fares for those who needed to fly suddenly for a family funeral or to see a terminally ill relative. Some carriers only included travel to see immediate family, while others expanded to include grandparents, cousins, in-laws, domestic partners and step-relatives. With these fares, airlines would waive their seven- or 14-day requirement to buy cheaper airfares, making it more affordable for travelers during their time of need.
But starting in 2001, faced with record losses, airlines starting looking within their operations to cut costs and find ways to add to the bottom line with things like add-on fees for checked baggage, onboard meals, calls to reservations centers and fees for flight cancellations and changes. During this time, airlines started transitioning away from offering bereavement fares.
With the explosion in online travel booking websites like Hopper, Priceline, Hotwire, Hipmunk, Skyscanner, Kayak and Orbitz, to name a few, it's actually easier than ever to find cheap, last-minute fares, making official bereavement fares less attractive. There are also companies like Cranky Concierge and other travel agents that can help you find rock-bottom fares during emergencies. And CheapAir.com offers a program where travelers can fly immediately and pay for the flight over three, six or 12 months.
Many airlines and travel companies also partner with Allianz Travel Insurance to help passengers protect their trips with cancellation coverage. The coverage offers a 100 percent refund for reasons including losing a job, illness or injury of a traveler or their traveling companions and flight cancellations for at least 24 hours due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, named severe storms, or earthquakes
Below are the bereavement fare policies for the top 15 North American carriers.
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The Mexican flag carrier does not offer separate bereavement fares. Instead, the airline highlights its "Fare Families" initiative, with three levels of Main Cabin and business Class Premier airfares. The three Main Cabin fares -- economy, classic and flexible -- offers rules and fees that can change airfare prices, with economy being the most restrictive.
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The country's flag carrier does have bereavement fares that can be used on Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express. It notes 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 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 is one of the few to still offer bereavement fares for flexible date tickets for those traveling due to the death of an immediate family member. But the airline warns that this special fare may be more expensive than other available last-minute tickets, and the fare is only available within seven days of travel. Customers must contact Alaska Air's Reservations Department at 1-800-252-7522 to book the fare.
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This ultra-low-cost carrier, based in Las Vegas, says that in order to maintain its low fares, it does not offer bereavement tickets. But if there's a death in your immediate family, the airline will give a full refund of a ticket if a traveler notifies the change within 24 hours of purchase and if the scheduled time of departure is at least one week away at the time of booking. After 24 hours, tickets purchased are non-refundable.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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This Atlanta-based carrier is another that still offers bereavement fares. In the event of a death or imminent death (for international travel) in a traveler's immediate family, Delta gives a traveler, who must be a SkyMiles frequent flyer member, flexibility on its best published fares for last-minute travel as required.
Delta requires the following documentation for bereavement fares:
- Deceased person’s name;
- Customer's relationship to the deceased;
- Name and phone number of funeral home, hospital, or hospice; and
- Name of doctor (if applicable).
Fares can only be booked by calling the airline's Reservation Sales department ( (800-221-1212 for domestic or 800-241-4141 for international). 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 fare difference will be applied. Travelers can also cancel the unused part of a ticket and receive a credit for 90 days from the original date of purchase. All requests must be made via the carrier's Reservations Department.
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The Honolulu-based carrier may qualify travelers who have to change a reservation because a family member passed away for either a waiver of change fees or a ticket refund if a reservation was canceled. It requires a copy of the death certificate, proof of relationship to the deceased, such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate and a copy of your ticket. it must be submitted with scanned copies of your documents at HawaiianAirlines.com/CAO, mailed to Hawaiian Airlines, Consumer Affairs Office, P.O. Box 30008, Honolulu, HI 96820 or faxed to 1-808-838-6777.
Hawaiian Airlines also 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.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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This Mexico City-based low-cost carrier is another that doesn't offer bereavement fares based on its naturally low ticket prices. All tickets and related charges/fees are non-refundable. But if travel is affected by causes that are attributable to Interjet or for any other extraordinary circumstances, customers may request a refund under the following circumstances:
- Within a period of 15 days after the refund request has been approved for a purchase made with a credit or debit card; and
- Within a period of 20 days after the refund request has been approved for a purchase made with any other forms of payment.
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Like Air Canada, this Calgary-based low-cost carrier does offer bereavement fares for those who have had a death in their immediate family, along with those traveling to funerals for firefighters, police officers, military personnel and emergency services personnel who have died in the line of duty. Customers must call the airline at 1-888-937-8538 for booking and may be asked for additional general information.