Airline Bereavement Fares, Are They Worth It?

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13/04/2009 – Airline Bereavement Fares, Are They Worth It?

Late on Saturday evening I received e-mail from an old friend from school asking me if I could help him find a last minute low cost fare to Phoenix (PHX) so he could attend his Grandmother’s funeral.

During our brief e-mails he expressed his frustration in seeking out airline “Bereavement Fares” and discovering many of these fares are significantly more expensive that fares he was finding online.

In searching for fares I found one potential flight for US$359 and another potential routing for US$407.   These fares were found poking around in places other than Expedia and Orbitz, but they were not hidden fares or special deal fares, while most of the fares my friend was finding were all over US$500, which was just to expensive.

Once I located the $359 fare and $407 fare I began to explore what a bereavement fare following the same routings would cost someone in need to traveling quickly to a funeral.  I always knew bereavement fares were more expensive, but I had not done a price comparison in quite some time, so I figured now was as good a time as ever.

The restricted $359 fare priced out at $763 for a bereavement fare and the restricted $407 fare priced out at a whopping $884.

While bereavement fares are intended to offer those in need of rapid travel in a time of mourning a quick option, the fares are quite expensive. Why are the fares expensive?   These fares are discounted fares, based on the full-unrestricted fare for the seat.

Should travel to and from a funeral need to be flexible, bereavement fares do offer some significant benefits. When flying on a bereavement fare travellers are eligible for changes, traveling on stand-by as well as traveling with an open return (no pre-determined return date).

When travelling on a bereavement fare airlines do need specific information, such as the passengers’ relationship to the deceased as well as the name and phone number of the funeral home, hospital or hospice to verify the information. Some airlines do require a copy of the death certificate as well.

For travellers flying in a time of immanent death, such as a dying relative in hospice, bereavement fares are available for this travel as well.   With this travel travellers must supply a contact phone number for a physician, hospital or hospice.

Why do they need to verify this information?  Because years ago when bereavement fares were a significant cost savings to travelers, some unscrupulous travellers would book business travel or vacations on bereavement fares.   Since the fares were becoming abused, airlines were forced to place documentation restrictions on issuing the fares.

If you must fly to a funeral and know the exact dates of your travel then a restricted ticket may be best for you to travel quickly and in a cost effective manner.   Economics play a big part of everyone’s travel.   Death is not something we can usually plan for, so seeking more affordable travel is often the only choice when traveling during a time of personal tragedy.

Hopefully most travellers will never need last minute fare to a funeral, or to be with a loved one as their life comes to an end, but it happens and there are options.   Bereavement fares may be the most effective option when you can’t plan for your return, however seeking fares outside of the traditional bereavement fares directly from an airline is often a more financially viable option when these moments happen.

Happy Flying! (at least hopefully we’ll all be flying for happier events in our lives)

PS: Vince, I am sorry for your loss.

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