Traveling to attend a funeral or be with an ailing loved one is not something for which you can plan. And, when you need to be there immediately, your chances of finding an affordable airline ticket are limited.

What you should know about bereavement fares

Bereavement fares have mostly become a thing of the past as budget airlines and basic economy fares continue to offer discounts that far exceed the potential savings on full fare tickets. Only two U.S. airlines still offer bereavement fares that can only be booked by calling the carrier’s reservation number.

Alaska Airlines will match and take an additional 10 percent off the lowest fare available within seven days of travel, and the discount applies to extended family, including aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Delta offers unspecified “additional flexibility on the best published fares” and requires that travelers provide details of the deceased and funeral arrangements. While a traveler seeking additional flexibility is required to be a SkyMiles member, enrolling in the program can happen immediately.  

In addition to checking into bereavement fares, continue searching online to compare fares from other airlines. Also know that most airlines – including those without a bereavement policy – are willing to help travelers dealing with unfortunate circumstances find the best option available.

Tips for last-minute travel arrangements

  1. If there is a smaller airport nearby, or one that’s within a reasonable driving distance to your destination, tickets may be cheaper than flying to a major hub. And, don’t forget to consider alternate airports for both arrival and departure.
  2. Take a red eye. Flights are usually cheapest when they take off or land when most people are sleeping.
  3. When you arrive at the airport, share your circumstances with airline staff and ask to be added to the standby list. They might be able to get you on an earlier flight.
  4. See if your credit card includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance. This benefit provides reimbursement for non-refundable prepaid trip expenses when a trip must be canceled or altered due to a covered situation.
  5. If you plan to redeem your miles last minute, be aware that some airlines will impose fees for bookings made without advance notice.

Don’t let travel arrangements add to your pain and stress. Carefully consider alternatives, even if an airline does offer a discounted bereavement fare, and don’t be afraid to call the airline directly. Airline employees are people, too, and may be able to exercise some amount of discretion to passengers who are experiencing a loss.