That dreaded middle-of-the-night-call happens. Your grandfather passed away suddenly. The family wants to have a service in just a few days. You desperately want to be there to support your loved ones — and to say goodbye — but you live thousands of miles away.
Travel websites have simplified many aspects of vacationing for a long weekend or going on a weeklong holiday. However, getting on a plane with a day or two notice can be very expensive. One of our team members spent more than $1,200 for a round-trip ticket for his granddad’s funeral recently. When he normally travels “back home” to see family, the trips are planned out at least a couple months, and have costed as low as $235 round-trip.
Bereavement or funeral fares for airlines are nearly extinct. In fact, only a few of the “major” airlines still have them, and you have to jump through some pretty big hoops in order to get them.
What current bereavement offers are available?
- Air Canada offers a discounted rate when booked over the phone for bereavement travel related to an immediate family member. (All three of these airlines here have a different list of who they consider an immediate family member. Click the airline links here for full details.) Travel must be within 10 days of booking. A bereavement fare can also be purchased at the ticket counter. Varying pieces of information are also required by airlines to qualify for the bereavement fare. (More on those below.)
- Alaska Airlines offers 10% off the current lowest-available ticket price, though in order to qualify for the discounted bereavement fare, you have to be a member of Alaska’s frequent flier program.
- Delta Airlines also requires you to be a member of their frequent flier program in order to qualify for a bereavement fare. The discounts vary, and reservations must be made over the phone.
This is a stressful time, but it’s important to have a clear head when making decisions about last-minute travel. In order to get a bereavement fare, you will need to have some personal information about the deceased available, such as:
- The deceased’s name
- How you are related to the deceased
- Contact information for the funeral home, hospice or hospital
- A copy of the death certificate
This is not a definitive list either. Documentation and information varies per airline. Restrictions do apply, also. Obviously, a bereavement fare may not be the most-convenient or cheapest way to travel for a funeral.
One other aspect for booking directly through an airline is using points. For example, while there is no bereavement fare available, those who are members of Southwest’s frequent flier program build points that can be used for most flights. You can also purchase additional points directly from Southwest to add to your existing points in order to have enough for a specific flight. Keep in mind, though, that costs for Southwest tend to jump up seven days before the day of travel.
Using a credit card’s perks
Many people have a specific credit card set aside just to build points in order to book air travel and hotels. Your current credit cards may already have some travel perks built in. It’s certainly worth calling the 800 number on the back of your card or visiting the card’s website to see what is available.
Some credit cards automatically build airline miles on to purchases. Others have a money back system that can be used toward travel. A travel credit card representative can even assist you in booking a flight.
Tips on booking last-minute travel
While the bereavement fare may not be the simplest, least-expensive option, there are many people who love to travel at the last-minute, and there are travel websites that cater to them. It’s certainly worth a Google search to see which of them might have flights available for your destination.
Some of the major travel websites, like Expedia, let regular customers build travel perks that get you discount flights and hotels. If you haven’t used those discounts in some time, they could help get you a reasonably-priced flight.
You may also consider traveling to a smaller airport. Last-minute fares may not be as expensive at a regional airport compared to a major city airport. It may be worth an hour or two drive to travel there to save some money.
One other thing to consider is finding a flight to a city that is only a couple hours away from your destination, and then renting a car. Unlike air travel, car rentals can be found on the cheap even at the last minute.
Adding travel woes to an already stressful situation when a loved one passes is not easy. But, pausing for a few minutes to look at all of your options could save you some money, time and aggravation.
Aside from travel, there are many other bereavement resources that can help you heal. Check out the link for some that we recommend.