In the United States and Canada, a bereavement flight is a flight purchased when a close relative has died or is dying. Bereavement fares used to be offered by many airlines, but as of 2015, most have stopped providing them.
While a bereavement flight may have flexible rules, it may be at either a reduced or a higher cost to the consumer depending on the airline. While airlines often charge much more for a flight that is booked less than 7 days beforehand than one that is booked farther in advance, customers may be able to obtain a bereavement fare in such last-minute flights that is comparable to that of a regular fare purchased far in advance.
Until the late 1990s, it was common for an airline to waive the 7- or 14-day advance purchase rule for bereavements, but in recent years, many airlines have been cutting back on bereavement fares or changing fare structures to accommodate them in other ways, so that they are barely worth the effort attempting to obtain. Instead, many short-notice travelers rely on hidden city fares or other airline booking ploys.
Policies of various airlines
Airlines have varying policies pertaining to bereavement flights. This may include the relatives for which one is eligible to obtain such a ticket, the proof that is required, and the price that is charged in comparison with other fares. The most common discount is 50% off the original fare.
- United Airlines no longer offers bereavement fares, but still has more flexible options for changing and canceling flights. Formerly, they offered bereavement fares of 5% off the ticket price in the event of the death or grave illness of a family member or for individuals seeking medical treatment for tickets sold within six days of travel.
- Delta Air Lines allows discounts for death or imminent death for those who call in advance for reservations.
- Air Canada offers bereavement fares within 7 days of a funeral and for stays of up to 30 days with a copy of a death certificate, a letter from a funeral director, or a certificate from an attending physician. For international itineraries only, the airline will also refund the difference between the regular and the bereavement fare if one of these is presented after travel.
- American Airlines no longer offers a compassion fare for customers traveling due to a medical emergency or death of a family member after the merger with US Airways.
- Alaska Airlines offers a bereavement fare for those traveling due to the death of an immediate family member. This fare is only available within seven days of travel.
- JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier and Virgin America do not offer bereavement fares, but have more flexible options for changing and canceling tickets.
Various other issues have been applied to bereavement flights.
One concerns which family members to whom the fare can be applied. Some airlines offer the fares only for immediate family members. Others offer it to a longer list, including foster relatives, half relatives, and step relatives. Other airlines have taken up the issue of whether domestic partners who are not legal spouses and same-sex spouses can be included.
It has also been questioned as to whether the bereavement fares are really the least expensive tickets available, as cheaper fares can often be found online.
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