In Case Of Death, Use Bereavement Fares

Death can strike without warning, making it hard to get a good deal on an airline ticket for the funeral. When this happens, ask your airline about a special “bereavement fare.”

Reader Max did this recently and only paid $240 for round trip last minute tickets, instead of $640.

The airline will likely require that you fax a copy of the necessary death certificate, but that’s a small price for nearly half off.

Check with your airline first, Max got his bereavement fare from American Airlines but we’ve heard of others clamping down on bereavement fares in this no-frills airline era. — BEN POPKEN

UPDATE: Currently, American Airlines, Continental, United and Us Airways offer bereavement fares, according to their websites. All require you call customer service.

[Smarter Travel via Upgrade; Travel Better]


Edit Your Comment

  1. spin_sycle says:

    I used bearevement a couple of years ago with Continental when my brother died and I had to fly home. They just gave me the rate with the condition of providing proof on my return flight. I had it all ready but nobody ever asked.

  2. acambras says:

    I tried this with Continental in 2004 — I was told that they no longer offer bereavement fares.

  3. spin_sycle says:

    Oh yeah, it was like 20% discount…I want to say it was December 2003…sorry if I screwed it up for everybody!

  4. MeOhMy says:

    “We’ve heard of others clamping down on bereavement fares in this no-frills airline ere.”

    CLERK 2: Alright sir, now all I need is a death certificate and you’ll be on your way.

    GEORGE: Well, you see, what happened was…the doctor – the very same doctor that was attending to my late aunt – suffered an untimely stroke, and lost the use of his right hand, so…obviously I was unable to get the death certificate. However, I do have this.

    CLERK 2: What’s this?

    GEORGE: That’s a picture of me next to the coffin.

    CLERK 2: Nice try.

  5. Frank Grimes says:

    My Mom was very sick last year and passed away after a six year battle with cancer and I had to do this myself (I was in TX and she was in New England) Bereavement fares, especially last minute can still be outrageous, a Continental fare was going to cost me $550 (that was 1/2 price) to get there asap. What worked well for me was purchasing one way fares. In one instance I got a call to come home on a Sunday night and was on a first flight out Monday on US Air for $280 one way, still steep but since I didn’t know when I was coming home it worked well. Not to be macabre but my mom wasn’t gone yet and you’re right, illness doesn’t really work anymore, just death. When I flew home I had a weeks notice and got a one way on Continental for $140. I was also able to use my FF miles at the last minute to bring my wife up (Continental charges you $75 to use miles this way). I think the most expensive flight on SWA is $300, even if you walk up to the counter and purchase a ticket, so that’s a good option as well. There are options beyond bereavement fares so ask. I’ll also have to say that the folks at Continental were fantastic, it was a horrible time for me and my family but they helped a lot finding flights for my wife and 9 month old son and helped me get her a first class seat when she flew home alone with him.

  6. Unfortunately I’ve had to use bereavement fares twice in the last year, both times with United.

    The discount wasn’t 50% but it was close, I had to provide them with the Funeral Directors Name/Phone #/Address (don’t know if they verified or not, I didn’t ask). They never asked for Death Certificate or anything, and they didn’t ask the relationship either.

    I guess you could use this to your advantage, if you want to fly somewhere last minute just check the obituaries in the destinations local paper.

  7. sam says:

    Bereavement fares are typically 50% of a full-fare ticket (I had to use one a few years ago when my grandfather died the day before Christmas). You can typically find a better price if you look at restrictive last minute tickets, but the real benefit of the BF is that it still behaves like a full fare ticket, so you can make changes and whatnot without any (or minimal) additional cost. Of course, with my grandfather, I had to fly from NY to Miami over the christmas holiday, so the ticket still ran me over $600 at the time.

  8. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    A similar situation occurred to me, my wife’s mother passed away unexpectedly. We were not in great financial shape at the time so the prospect of driving 23 hours while my wife cried her eyes out was less than appealing. So I went to the Airport to see what I could do, I found talking to a real person gets better results than calling a 1-800 number. I went to Delta, American and Northwest with the best price I could get being more than double what we could afford. And they all wanted a Death Certificate before we left or on the return flight. Since her mom died in her sleep there was going to be an autopsy so we wouldn’t have had a Death Cert. in time.

    So my last stop was the Southwest counter, at this point I decided to just tell the whole story and hope for some sympathy. I barely got out that my mother had died and the awesome counter rep stopped me and asked for all the details of where we needed to go and how many tickets etc. She printed out tickets and handed them to me and told me how sorry she was for my loss. I asked how much they were and she just smiled and said they were free! She had given us tickets off of her personal account as an employee; I was so dumbstruck I didn’t ask questions I just took off home to pack and rush back to the airport to be on our way. On the flight we were told by the flight attendant that we were actually supposed to be stand by but the nice lady at the counter had called the gate to make sure we got on the flight. I can never thank her enough or even describe what a difference it made to my wife and I at such a terrible moment. We both fly Southwest whenever we can and recommend them often. I don’t know how many tickets employees get or even their cost but we really appreciated her efforts more than anything.

  9. acambras says:

    I guess you could use this to your advantage, if you want to fly somewhere last minute just check the obituaries in the destinations local paper.

    Anybody got a link to the obits page for the Bahamian local paper? Barbados? Anywhere warm, really…

  10. ajn007 says:

    In my experience, you do need a little flexibility. Last summer I called American while looking for a bereavement fare from Austin to San Jose, CA. According the the representative I talked to, they couldn’t get me out that day beause they didn’t “have any bereavment fares left.” If I left in two days they could accommodate me. A few calls to other airlines netted the same results. I ended up flying that same day on Continental with my mom’s frequent flyer miles.

  11. nweaver says:

    Southwest doesn’t have berevement fares. However, since their full-fare walk up tickets are usually pretty reasonable, even for long distance travel, so it may be cheaper anyway for last minute travel.

  12. MarcAnthony says:

    I guess you could use this to your advantage, if you want to fly somewhere last minute just check the obituaries in the destinations local paper.

    Don’t use these to your advantage, unless you actually experience an emergency. Airlines only have a certain amount of Bereavement/Emergency seats available. While your using it for leisure, someone who actually needs to fly on a real emergency might be out of luck!

    Buying one way tickets for emergencys is the best option!

    If you don’t have a copy of death certificate, you can use a written statement from the funeral director, on letterhead, just as long as its official.

    Foreign travel rarely asks for documentation. J

    If you don’t have a passport currently, you should get one A.S.A.P. since foreign travel rules have changed!

  13. VA_White says:

    If you really do have to go someplace last-minute and can’t take advantage of advance-purchase fares, what keeps you from picking a random dead person in the destination city and claiming her as your beloved Auntie?

  14. MonsieurBon says:

    When my dad died in the summer of 2001, I got a bereavement fare from United. I believe the full fare was about $900, and they gave it to me for about $650. They required the funeral director’s name and phone number. I paid over the phone with a credit card.

    When I got to the airport, the person at the counter said I couldn’t board without showing him the credit card I used to buy the ticket. For some reason I didn’t have it with me. He insisted that there was nothing that he could do. I explained that I would miss my father’s funeral if he didn’t let me on the plane. He said he couldn’t help. I asked for a manager and he relented and printed out the ticket.

  15. katana says:

    “Don’t use these to your advantage, unless you actually experience an emergency. Airlines only have a certain amount of Bereavement/Emergency seats available. While your using it for leisure, someone who actually needs to fly on a real emergency might be out of luck!”

    They limit the number of people who can fly due to deaths? I find that very, very hard to believe. If they offer bereavement fares, they offer them. I don’t think if you go up and saw so and so died, that that’d say, “sorry, we reached our death quota today.”

    But, I agree about ONLY using these in case of legitamite death in the family. Sad story, man.

  16. infmom says:

    I had no trouble getting a bereavement fare from American (Burbank to Louisville) when my dad died in April 2002. They wanted his name, the name and address of the funeral home, and when the services were going to be.

    However, when my husband and I wanted to fly to Rochester, NY in November 2005 when his father died, American said they had no bereavement fares left for the day we wanted to fly. All they could offer me was a standard fare, and for two people on two days’ notice that came to some ghastly amount of money even though we were flying one way. They couldn’t even get me a bereavement fare when I offered to fly out of a different Los Angeles area airport. I still don’t understand that.

    I called around and the people at Delta were very nice about it, got me the flights we needed, and also asked only for the name, funeral home name and address, and date of services. The final price was less than half what American quoted me.

    Travelocity (which I usually use for travel arrangements and which has been exceedingly helpful many times in the past) could not get me the bereavement fares. They don’t, apparently, handle special circumstances.

  17. nan says:

    Unfortunately I had to quickly fly home due to a death in my family a couple of years ago. I didn’t even know about the bereavement fare at that time. I wasn’t able to find any tickets online, so I called the airline directly.

    The ticketing agent casually asked me what was wrong (I may have been sobbing, so I don’t think she was trying to be too nosy) and I told her that I needed to get on a popular flight time because that was the only way I could have made it to the service on time and she told me about the bereavement thing. She told me that they would charge me 50% now, and I just needed to show proof when I check in on the return to not get charged the other 50% of the fare.

    Guess what, I didn’t get that paperwork together for the return and when I checked in. But I told the agent at the booth I didn’t have it and she just said it was no matter and told me to have a safe trip home.

    I figured that they would bill me anyway on the card number they had so I scrutinized every bill I received months afterward… Nothing. Not one penny more than the fare I paid for the first leg of the trip. And I still got miles. I couldn’t believe it. I’m glad that there are some companies who will give their customers a break. Oh, it was Alaska Air in 2004 btw.

  18. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    I just wanted to say that this is the kind of cool tip I love this site for. And this particular forum is great, too — lots of really interesting stories. Amazing about Southwest and the free tickets. Yay Consumerist!

    You people who would actually abuse what little generosity and compassion is left in the airlines are ruining it for the people who need it. Even if bereavement seats were unlimited, you’re still lowering the companies’ opinion of their customers in general, and making it easier for them to justify not ever giving anyone a break. Whether you think it’s okay because you’re blindingly selfish or shockingly thoughtless…either way, screw you.

  19. phdsd says:

    US Airways/America West did not have bereavement fares as of late December 2006.

  20. Continental customer service was extremely rude and dismissive when I called about a year ago. My dad was in the OR for emergency brain surgery and was not expected to recover.

    I’ll never fly with them again. No way. No how.

  21. wingnut135 says:

    Bereavement rates are almost a scam put on by the airlines. When you say you need a flight from here to there tomorrow, they give you the average price of the most expensive and least expensive tickets they offer that day on that route.

    My grandfather died a couple of years ago while I was stationed in England (I’m in the USAF). I called several airlines, needing two tickets from Baltimore to St. Louis. At first they were about $900 a ticket, then I asked for the bereavement rate and they dropped to just over $600 each. Then I asked what is the active duty military on emergency leave rate. I got both tickets for $500, all I had to do was flash my ID card at the counter.

  22. Joey B says:

    My dad died this fall and I called about bereavement rates. They are no longer offered by Delta (and Delta Song has be reabsorbed into Delta). They refer to last minute ticketing for such things as death in the family as “Great Rates” now and at $900 for a ticket that formerly cost $200 with Song, I told them to stick it.

  23. TWinter says:

    It’s really sad that the airlines have gotten so restrictive. I remember back in the early 90s, some airlines would give the current 21-day advance purchase fare for bereavement.

  24. formergr says:

    Just another recommendation when calling any airline, especially for a special situation:
    if you don’t get good service or are told something that you suspect should be is not possible, politely say good-bye to the agent with whom you are speaking, hang up, and try again. The next agent may be more knowledgeable, flexible, nicer, etc.

    Just don’t be rude to the original agent when you hang up on them, because they actually have the ability to make a note on your record that will make it very hard for you to get service the next time you call.

  25. Benny Gesserit says:

    Air Canada no longer offers bereavement fares within North America.

    Quoting their website: “Please note that Air Canada no longer offers bereavement fares for travel WITHIN North America as our web fares offered are of a better value.” Emphasis mine.

    Heartless people – you go to the website in the midst of your grief and get an advert. Shame. Shame.

  26. LRM216 says:

    One would like to think this was not so; however, sometimes the bereavement rate is HIGHER than the regular rate. Go figure. This is not hearsay, I know this to be a fact as it has happened to two family members at two entirely different times.

  27. apollonia666 says:

    Three years ago I had to fly from NYC to Kentucky when my mother was dying. I booked my ticket through Priceline while things were still touch-and-go with her health, and then when she died a couple of days later I had to change my return flight so I could stay long enough for the funeral and all the other family business stuff I had to stay for.

    Priceline hardly ever lets you change flights, but I did manage to get them to reschedule my return flight and even got them to give me a reduced price. But it took hours on the phone, dozens of transfers, and lots of telling the whole story over and over again to different people with me already in an awful emotional state. Ugh.

  28. J. Gov says:

    My SO got a better rate through one of the price comparison sites than NWA’s bereavement fare to go from Detroit to Dulles last month. The bereavement fare they quoted was about the same as I’d normally pay to go to Dulles if it wasn’t the holiday season, not sure how good a deal that is.

  29. HeartBurnKid says:

    Somebody (I think it was Chris Jericho) tells a great story about this on the “The Rise and Fall of ECW” DVD. Apparently, Paul Heyman (the ECW promoter) used to fly his talent back and forth to the shows using bereavement fares, by claiming that certain other wrestlers had died… funny stuff.

  30. Michael Bauser says:

    My one experience trying to get a bereavment fare (Phoenix to Detroit, 6 years ago) matches LRM216’s experience: There were regular fares that cost less than the bereavement fares (and customer service reps volunteered that fact, so kudos to them). But Phoenix and Detroit are both hub airports, so that was probably pushing down the regular ticket prices. Bereavment fares are probably a better deal in the smaller markets.

  31. Vidgames says:

    My mother died last week, and we tried to use the bereavement fares with little luck. United offered us $40 off its normal fare (which took $570 down to $530 per person), which was especially surprising that I’ve flown United predominantly, and it’s always seemed to help out its regular customer.

    I had my wife (who was setting everything up) call again to make sure, because it seemed hard to believe that such a pittance of a discount would be offered. Sure enough, that was the best they’d offer…and the second person actually said, “You’d have gotten a much better fare if you called earlier.” Wow, talk about losing track of what you’re saying.

    We tried a few other airlines with similar results, and the saving over what we could have set up for “normal” flights wasn’t good enough for four of us.

    However, my wife went to Travelocity and found a “last-minute packages” deal for just under $400 per person–which included the flight (on United, interestingly enough), hotel (for two rooms, at a place near the airport and not at all a fleabag) and a car (from Hertz). So for quite a bit less than United was willing to offer for just the flight, we got all of the things we needed for the trip.

    Not to keep on bashing the airlines, but there were seats open on three of the four flights we took between California and Connecticut. It still amazes me that the airlines are all crying poverty, though they don’t make it at all affordable for someone to take one of their open seats within a few days of the flight. While we ended up flying United anyway, the good will that the airline could have gotten by helping our family in a tough time doesn’t seem to be in its mindset anymore.

  32. nalambert says:

    I am a recent traveler to China due to my mother’s unexpected death and trying for more than 4 months to get United to adjust the flight ticket price. They seem to be very nice every time you call and polite but not getting things done. I am actually looking for some real life experience as evidence and prepared continue to contact United until they actually do something.

    I paid last minutes ticket $2176 to Beijing China on Jan 9th, 2007, knowing the regular fare would be about $800 to $1000. One of the United supvisor told me he can force it ot $600 if I talked to him first. But at that shocking moment, I was lucky to just being able to travel myself for almost 20hours. Who had ever had experience this before? We talked to the ticket agent on the phone, no one advised us nothing.

    Do you or anyone knows United top executives contact information?

    Thank you,