Why Is Delta's "Bereavement Fare" $290 More Than A Regular One?

Consumerist reader Brian recently had a death in his family and needed to fly from Rochester, NY, to Boston.When he attempted to book a flight with a bereavement discount with Delta, he was told that there was a direct, non-bereavement fare available for almost half the cost. Brian’s complaint is a common one among air travelers, and it springs from a general misconception of exactly what the airlines mean by “bereavement fare.”

The idea of bereavement (occasionally called “compassion”) fares and discounts go back to the pre-Internet era of air travel, when there was less flexibility in airline pricing and available discounts. Carriers would offer discounts, often around 50%, off their full fare.

But in this day of online booking (not to mention Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity and others), passengers almost never pay full fare. It’s like when you go to a hotel and see the rate listed on the back of the door, which is usually significantly higher than what you paid.

Additionally, some airlines’ bereavement fares have options that are not available on regular fares. These range from no-fee cancellation policies to open-ended return tickets. In some situations, these options might be desirable — and might cost less in the long run.

In Brian’s situation, Delta was willing to give him a discount on a flight from Rochester to Boston (through NYC). But even with that discount, the fare was $640 and there was a direct flight available for $350. The booking agent on the phone let him know of the cheaper fare up front.

The lesson here is: Don’t always assume a bereavement fare is going to be the least expensive way to reach a family member’s funeral or in the case of a medical emergency. So be sure when booking the flight to make sure you’re purchasing the ticket that best suits your needs.

Bereavement Fares: The Best Airlines For Compassion Fares [Window Seat Blog]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.