Continental's Bereavement Fares Showed Us No Sympathy

Andy’s sister and her family suffered a relative’s death while traveling and had to stay for the funeral. Continental offered her a costly bereavement fare, telling her to take it or leave it, then hiked the price by $200 when she decided to check around and then buy the tickets.

Andy thinks his sister got a raw deal. He explains:

I wanted to let you about an experience my sister and her family had with Continental airlines over this past weekend.

About a month ago my sister, her husband and their four children (ages 9, 6, 3 and 6 months) got tickets to fly to our home city for a wedding. They arrived on Thursday evening and were going to head home on Sunday early morning. Unfortunately, about a week and a half ago my brother-in-law’s grandmother fell ill and on Saturday morning she passed away.

Fortunately my sister and her family were able see their (great-)grandma one more time before she passed, but unfortunately they were now in a position of needing to change their tickets to allow them to stay for the funeral. They called Continental airlines and were told that Continental doesn’t offer any reduction in the cost for changing tickets because of bereavement, they only have bereavement fares for tickets that were purchased after the relative has passed!

They were then told that it would cost $575 to change the five tickets (the infant still flies for free), and that this price couldn’t be guaranteed if they didn’t accept it immediately. While that caveat is obnoxious, it does make sense that their prices fluctuate. Wanting to do their due diligence, they passed on the $575 and consulted the internet. When they called back a short while later, they were told that the price had more than doubled, having increased to over $200 per ticket! Most people can’t afford $575 at the drop of a hat, much less well over a grand, so they decided that my brother-in-law would stay behind for the funeral and the rest of the family would have to take the original flights back.

It’s very frustrating to me (and my sister & her family) that Continental wouldn’t allow any relief in the cost of changing the ticket because of the timing of the death of a loved one. So my sister’s family had to be separated during what should have been a time of grieving, and she had to escort four children through three airports and two flights.

Had they been forced to make last-minute plans, apparently Continental would have given them a break, but having to make last-minute adjustments to already-purchased tickets doesn’t warrant the same discount? It just seems to be in poor taste to me.

As we mentioned back in February, bereavement fares aren’t the sweetheart deals they used to be — often costing you more than others are paying for the same flights — and you can most likely get a better rate by shopping around online.