You get a call that your beloved Aunt Louise in Philadelphia has died unexpectedly and the funeral is in three days. It’s too far to drive and in the midst of your grief you have to figure out how to get there, without spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment for airfare.
We’ve noticed as airlines have cut everything from free checked luggage to supplying blankets. (On a recent sub-zero flight to flight attendant: “Do you have any blankets?” “Honey, we haven’t had those since 1980.”) Many were also quietly cutting the option of discount bereavement fares.
If available at all, the offerings vary widely from airline to airline with varying discounts and requirements. For example, Lufthansa offers a bereavement fare but you have to make the purchase a week in advance. And often the discounted fare on a particular airline is lot higher than a regular one on another airline. United Airlines offers a 5% discount
If offered at all, you’ll have to call the airlines to qualify and be prepared with information such as the name of the funeral home, the doctor’s name, the hospital and the social security number of the deceased. In some cases you may need to supply a copy of the death certificate.
If you do check and find the airfares are too much for your wallet, what are your options? Consumer advocate Clark Howard recently offered these three suggestions on his nationally syndicated radio show to score lower fares for quick travel.
• Use a service such as Hotwire.com or Priceline.com. Select the dates you want to travel and these sites will give you a price. But beware that you cannot select the time of the flight and once purchased, these flights cannot be changed.
• If available in your city, try Southwest Airlines. They are the largest low fare carrier in the country and their flights are fully refundable with no change fees. If you live within a few hours of a city serviced by Southwest, it may be worth the drive.
•Look at package deals. Although usually associated with vacations, package deals can offer discounted airfares along with rental cars and hotel rooms. You may need those as well and a package can often mean substantial savings.
I am a chaplain in a metro Atlanta Hospital. Today I responded to a patient death; the immediate family was a brother from California who has been here about 3x in the past month. He told me he left yesterday to return to California and when he stopped in Phoenix he found he needed to return instead back to Atlanta as his brother took a turn for the worse. I was quite surprised when he told me he was flying US Air and they put him on a plane back to Atlanta at no charge. I imagine this was an individual call by a particular agent but it was heartening none the less. He was at his brother’s bedside this morning when he passed.