Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bereavement Airfares: The Discount Ticket You Don't Want

Everybody wants discounts on airfare. We look obsessively for cheap plane tickets before committing to one fare, and then fret that we've paid too much and a better deal will come along. It's a sport best-suited to those who love the thrill of the hunt.

But there are some occasions you don't have the time or inclination to scour the internet for the cheapest airfare. Most of us have been forced to travel long-distance at some point for a friend or relative's funeral, or in that terrifying scenario when a loved one may not make it. When you're struggling to simultaneously pack a suitcase and grieve, it's not the time to comparison shop.

Luckily, some airlines have a heart. They know this is travel you haven't planned or budgeted for, and they're willing to help. They offer discounts of up to 50% on last-minute airfares if you're flying for a funeral, or in some cases to see a gravely ill relative (though that one's less common). It's called a bereavement airfare.

There are some finer points to note, though. To get a bereavement airfare, you need to call or go to the airport directly and book through the airline (not through a website or travel agent). Some airlines will charge you full fare and then let you apply for the rebate after (and some require a death certificate).

Also, even though the tickets are discounted, that doesn't mean they are necessarily the cheapest seats. There may still be sale seats available, so it doesn't hurt to ask. If you can, have a friend do some quick fare-checking before you call to see if there are discounted seats available.

Bereavement airfares are harder to get on international and trans-Atlantic flights, and not all airlines offer them. Within the US, Delta, United, US Airways and American Airlines have been known to offer bereavement fares.

In an industry that gets a lot of negative press for ripping people off, it's nice to know that there's still a bit of compassion for people in need.

Image by Luis Argerich.

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