Do bereavement fares save you money?
One of these days you are going to get that phone call. The one that says a loved-one has died. What can you do if you are hundreds of miles away?
In his special assignment, Clark has the story of one couple who are crying foul over bereavement fares.
John Crocker’s dad had just passed out. Just like that, he dropped what he was doing in the garage and died.
His dad was dead. John and his fiancé, Megan, needed to get home to Houston. They raced to the Delta ticket counter and asked for a bereavement fare.
A bereavement fare is a discount ticket designed to get you home for a funeral, without paying a fortune.
“It was $584 dollars for me and over $1,100 dollars for my fiancé, Megan,” Crocker said.
That is a lot of money.
Delta offers them at 50% off their full fare coach seat. A full-fare coach ticket can be $500- $1,200 bucks. So, 50% of that is still no deal at all! Plus, the fares only apply to family members and their spouses. Megan was John’s fiancé, so she had to pay the full $1,100 dollar walk-up fare.
“I didn’t understand that it basically was a term for price gouge, and that’s what I really feel like it was,” said Megan Husby.
“They are being gouged,” said travel agent Clara Bosonetto.
Bosonetto, travel expert for my radio show, says airlines have had to tighten the reigns on bereavement fares. “Unfortunately, the situation today with bereavement fares is a result of abuse. People traveling on that for illegitimate reasons,” said Bosonetto.
The airlines now require you give them the name and number of the funeral home, or the hospital and doctor’s name. And they will call to make sure its legit.
“They wanted his social security number to check the records there,” said Crocker. “I mean, why do you need that?”
“It’s kind of like getting a permission slip from your parents,” said Bosonetto.
The airlines are quick to point out the benefits of bereavement fares. They are refundable, and you can change the dates and times without penalty. But I think the price is too big a negative to swallow, and there are cheaper alternatives out there.
“Absolutely,” said Bosonetto. “Try AirTran, Southwest. Consider taking the couple-hour drive to Birmingham for the Southwest values.”
Or you can try these two websites designed for last minute travel: hotwire.com, and priceline.com.
Hotwire.com lets you pick the dates, and they give you the price. Priceline.com lets you pick the price. But be careful, neither site lets you pick the flight times. And once you buy, the tickets cannot be changed.
“You’re stuck with the ticket,” said Bosonetto. “So, if you’re going to use those systems, be very flexible, allow yourself a day going in, and a day coming back.”
John and Megan wish they had taken the time to try the online alternatives. But, they really believe the airlines should change their policies.
“If you can make a profit off a flight for $150 booked 2 weeks in advance, you’re making a very big profit off charging my fiancé $1.200 and myself $600 dollars to fly home.
“I wasn’t asking for a handout,” said Megan. “I wasn’t asking for a free ticket. I was asking for a fair price.”
There is a way to get a bereavement ticket for free: save all your frequent flyer miles. Keep them stored away for the a rainy day. The airlines will probably charge you a fee to convert them on short notice, but that’s a cheaper option than the $1,800 bucks John and Megan had to pay.
By the way, Delta refused our request for interview, saying they never discuss fares