The last thing you need to worry about when there's a family funeral is the outrageous price of last-minute airline travel. That's when bereavement fares, also known as compassion fares, can be valuable.
With the exception of Southwest, all major U.S. airlines offer these discounted fares for family members traveling to a funeral. The tickets are usually 50 percent off the price of a full-fare, unrestricted coach seat (often shockingly expensive) and are available to the immediate family of the deceased. Airlines have varying definitions of "immediate family," but generally include spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. In-laws can also get reduced fares, but on a more restricted basis. Typically, you can only get a bereavement fare to attend the funeral of a spouse's parent or sibling, though some airlines, including TWA, include grandparents. A few airlines, such as American and United, also offer bereavement fares to domestic partners.
To qualify for the fare, you'll need to provide the name of the deceased and the address and phone number of the funeral home. If you don't have this information before you leave, you can provide a letter from the funeral director or a copy of the death certificate on your return trip. Some airlines, like American and Delta, also offer reduced fares for last-minute travel to visit a relative with a life-threatening medical emergency. To qualify, you need to provide the name and phone number of the relative, and the phone number and address of the physician or hospital.
Keep in mind that bereavement fares are not always the lowest fares available. Then again, you may be in no mood to shop around for a bargain.
Photography by Digital Stock
This article was first published in July 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.