When you get hit with the news that a loved one has died, your whole world gets turned upside down.
You immediately want to be there to grieve with family, but that desire can often be complicated by the fact that so many Americans live in another state away from their blood relatives. In some cases, the distance can be hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Fortunately, a select group of airlines offer bereavement fares that you can book on short notice. These fares are designed to get you home for a funeral or other memorial service hopefully without breaking the bank.
Bereavement fares: Here’s who still offers them
Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa and WestJet are among the few airlines that still offer bereavement tickets despite their waning popularity. And while certain restrictions do apply, these carriers may be able to help in your family’s time of need.
But before we begin, it’s important to note one thing…
Bereavement fares offer flexibility during family emergencies above all else. They are not necessarily the lowest fares available.
Fortunately, we’ve got a few workarounds you can use to possibly get a better fare if a bereavement ticket is a bridge too far for you financially. More on that in a bit.
But back to our topic at hand. We know it can be difficult to collect your thoughts after you suffer the loss of a loved one. Yet it’s best to take a few moments to gather the info you’re likely to need to qualify for a bereavement fare.
This may include the following pieces of info:
- The deceased person's name
- Your relationship to the deceased
- The name and phone number of the funeral home, hospital or hospice
- The name of the attending doctor, if applicable
It’s also important to note that each airline defines “immediate family” by a different set of criteria. For example, aunt, uncles, nieces and nephews may be considered immediate family by one carrier but may not make the cut according to another airline.
Below you’ll find key info about the following carriers’ bereavement policies.
- Reduced bereavement fares are available one-way on select domestic itineraries within 10 days of the death of an immediate family member.
- International bereavement tickets have a shorter window. You must begin travel within seven days of booking, though your international ticket can be round-trip, not just one-way. Some limitations apply.
- You must book direct by calling Air Canada Reservations at 1-888-247-2262.
- The definition of immediate family is limited under Air Canada's policy.
- Offers a 10% discount off the lowest priced fare available within seven days of travel.
- Must be a member of the free Mileage Plan program to qualify for a bereavement fare.
- You must book direct by calling the reservations and customer service department at 1-800-252-7522.
- The definition of immediate family is somewhat broad under Alaska Air's policy.
- However, cousins and other in-law relatives are excluded.
- Bereavement fares are available for travel within seven days of the death or imminent death of an immediate family member.
- You must book direct by calling Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212 for domestic travel or 1-800-241-4141 for international travel.
- No service fee applies if you have to change the tickets. You'll just be responsible for paying the fare difference, if any.
- The definition of immediate family is very broad under Delta's policy.
- This German airline has the least transparent bereavement fare policy. There is nothing on its website to outline the terms and conditions.
- If you want a bereavement ticket from Lufthansa, your best bet is to contact their reservations office at 800-645-3880 for further details.
- Bereavement fares are available for travel within 14 days of the death or imminent death of an immediate family member. That is by far the most generous window of time.
- You must book direct by calling 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET).
- The definition of immediate family is somewhat imited under WestJet's policy. However, the executor of the deceased's estate is considered immediate family, as are any legal guardians and the spouse of a legal guardian. This is unique among the carriers who offer bereavement fares.
- In addition, specialized discount fares are available for civic funerals. This includes flying to attend services for firefighters, police officers, military personnel and emergency services personnel who die in the line of duty.
Alternatives to bereavement fares
As mentioned above, the bereavement fare isn’t always going to be the cheapest one available at your time of need. Bereavement tickets are instead designed to offer you flexibility and eliminate fees if you need to modify your travel plans.
So if you’re not happy with the quote you’re getting on a bereavement fare, consider these alternatives:
Use your frequent flyer miles
The airlines may charge you a fee to convert them on short notice, but it could very likely be cheaper than a traditional bereavement fare.
Get last-minute travel deals
Drive to a smaller airport if necessary
Try searching fares from an alternate metro area if it’s only an hour or two away by car. If you get a deal, you might consider driving to that airport and flying out from there.
Of course, we realize this might be too much to handle at a time when you’re grieving. You could also try taking an Uber or Lyft to the alternate airport to grab a cheaper flight.