What you need to know about bereavement fares

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When a family member passes away, bereavement fares offer the flexibility with travel you need during a family emergency — though not necessarily always the lowest price.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the bereavement fare policies of several popular airlines. We’ll also suggest alternate ways you may be able to get home to mourn after a death in the family without breaking the bank.

Here’s what you need to know about bereavement fares

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.

Bereavement fares: Table of contents

The basics of bereavement fares

Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa and WestJet are among the few carriers that still offer bereavement tickets, which are not as popular as they once were. And while certain restrictions do apply, these airlines may be able to help in your family’s time of need.

But before we begin, it’s important to restate the big idea here…

Bereavement fares offer flexibility during family emergencies above all else. They are not necessarily the lowest fares available.

Prior searching for a Delta bereavement fare or any other, you’ve got to get your ducks in a row. We know it can be difficult to collect your thoughts after you suffer the loss of a loved one. Still, you should 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 important to note that each airline defines “immediate family” by a different set of criteria. For example, aunts, 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 by bereavement policies by airline.

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Air Canada

air canada logo

  • 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.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines logo

  • Alaska Airlines offers a 10% discount off the lowest priced fare available within seven days of travel.
  • You 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 in-law relatives are excluded.

Delta

Delta Air logo

  • Delta bereavement fares are available for travel within seven days of the death or imminent death of an immediate family member.
  • You must be a member of the free SkyMiles program to qualify for a bereavement fare.
  • 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 your tickets. You’ll just be responsible for paying the fare difference, if any.
  • The definition of immediate family is very broad under the Delta bereavement fares policy.

Lufthansa

lufthansa logo

  • 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.

WestJet

westjet logo

  • 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 limited 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

If you’re not happy with the quote you’re getting on a Delta bereavement fare or any other, 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

Try these two websites designed for last-minute travel — Hotwire.com and Priceline.com.

Drive to a different 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 Uber or Lyft to the alternate airport to grab a cheaper flight.

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Final thought

Remember, a 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.

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