6 minute read

A Guide to Bereavement Fares: What They Are & How to Qualify

Did you know that many airlines offer discounted flights with bereavement fares? Trust & Will explains what you need to know about bereavement flights.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

In the face of loss, the logistics of travel can add unnecessary stress to an already difficult time. To alleviate some of this burden, some airlines offer what is known as bereavement flights. These are discounted fares aimed at helping people reach their loved ones in times of mourning. 

This guide will explain what you need to know about bereavement flights, including what they are, how they work, and how you can qualify. Be sure to keep reading until the end where we answer some frequently asked questions so that you can come away equipped with information.

What Are Bereavement Flights?

Bereavement flights, also known as compassion fares, are discounted airfares provided by certain airlines in response to the immediate death or serious illness of a close family member. The idea behind bereavement fares is to offer some financial relief for individuals who must purchase last-minute, often expensive, flights due to unforeseen circumstances. These discounts can vary widely based on the airline's policy, the flight's destination, and the time of travel.

How Does a Bereavement Flight Work?

A bereavement flight provides a discounted rate on short-notice flights to the immediate family members of someone who passed away or is critically ill. Note that you can’t book bereavement flights online yourself. You must provide proof of the bereavement circumstances to the airline. Once they verify, they will apply the bereavement discount to your ticket. We will talk more about how to provide adequate proof to qualify for a bereavement rate in the following section.

Not all airlines offer bereavement fares. Those that do have their own set of policies. Some airlines may give a percentage off the market ticket price, while others might offer a flexible change and cancellation policy. Therefore, it's important to research and understand the specific terms and conditions put forth by the airline of your choosing.

How Do I Qualify for Bereavement Fares?

To qualify for bereavement fares, airlines typically require the passenger to be an immediate relative of the deceased or critically ill. It's important to note that the definition of "immediate family" varies between airlines, so passengers should directly contact the airline of their choice to understand their specific criteria.

Proof of relationship may also be required, particularly in cases where the family connection is not easily recognizable by the last name. This might involve documentation like a death certificate, a letter from the attending physician or hospital, or an obituary citing your relationship. This stringent verification process ensures that the bereavement fare policy is not misused. It's advised to prepare for this possibility in advance to expedite the process when arranging a bereavement flight.

How to Find Bereavement Flights

Finding bereavement flights mainly depends on knowing which airlines offer such fares. Not all airlines offer bereavement fares, and those that do have varying policies, so it's critical to do some research. Here, we’ve got your back. We listed some of the major airlines that offer bereavement flights, along with the summary of their policy, later in this guide.

Otherwise, we recommend identifying the airline of your choice and finding their webpage dedicated to special fares. Here, review their bereavement policy if available. We also recommend calling their customer representative line to find out more information. 

While searching for bereavement flights, consider comparing them against regular flights. In some cases, airlines might be offering promotional or last-minute deals which could be cheaper than the fare on the bereavement flight. Make sure to explore all available options in order to secure the best possible rate.

Which Airlines Offer Bereavement Flights? 

While the number of airlines that offer bereavement fares has decreased over the years, there are several that still maintain this compassionate policy. 

It's important to note that each airline has its own set of rules and stipulations that need to be adhered to. Let's take a closer look at some of the airlines that offer bereavement fares and the specifics of their policies:

  • Alaska Airlines

  • Delta Airlines

  • Air Canada

  • Hawaiian Airlines

  • WestJet 

Alaska Airlines Bereavement Fare Requirements

Alaska Airlines provides bereavement fares for their passengers experiencing a death in the family. To qualify, you must be a member of the airline's Mileage Plan and must be able to provide documentation such as a death certificate or funeral documentation. The bereavement fare applies to immediate family members, which Alaska Airlines defines as: spouses, domestic partners, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.

The discounted fare is only available for travel occurring within seven days of booking, and the length of stay must not exceed 30 days. It's important to remember that while Alaska Airlines offers this fare as a compassionate consideration, they still recommend comparing prices to ensure you're getting the best possible deal. For further details on Alaska Airlines bereavement fare requirements, you can visit their official website.

Delta Airlines Bereavement Fare Requirements

Delta Airlines offers bereavement fares to those grappling with a family loss. To be eligible, you must be a SkyMiles member and the travel must be due to the imminent death or recent passing of an immediate family member. Immediate family, as defined by Delta, includes: spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, in-law relatives and step-relatives. 

It's noteworthy that the bereavement fare discount applies only to Delta and Delta Connection flights, and the travel must originate from a U.S. or Canada airport. Booking must be done via Delta Reservations or a Delta Ticket Office, and proof of death or hospital documentation may be required. While the bereavement fare offers some savings, Delta advises customers to shop around to ensure they are receiving the most cost-effective fare. For more information on Delta Airlines bereavement fare requirements, you can visit their official website.

Air Canada Bereavement Fare Requirements

Air Canada extends a bereavement fare for those experiencing the loss of an immediate family member. As defined by Air Canada, this includes: spouse, child, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, as well as step-family relationships and legal guardians. 

The bereavement fare is applicable on Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express flights. Reservations must be made through the Air Canada Reservation department, and proof of death or serious illness may be required. It's important to note that while Air Canada provides these bereavement fares, they also recommend that passengers compare prices to ensure the most economical choice. For more detailed information on Air Canada's bereavement fare requirements, you can visit their official website.

Hawaiian Airlines Bereavement Fare Requirements

Hawaiian Airlines also offers bereavement fares for travelers who have experienced the loss of an immediate family member. To qualify for this fare, the traveler must be an immediate family member, and the definition of 'immediate family' includes: spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or a parent-in-law. The discount applies to tickets for Hawaiian Airlines flights only and does not apply to flights operated by any partner airlines. 

To qualify, passengers must fill out a Bereavement Fare Application available on the Hawaiian Airlines website and submit it along with supporting documents such as proof of death or serious illness. The airline advises passengers to compare prices with other fares to ensure they are choosing the most economical option. For more details about Hawaiian Airlines' bereavement fare requirements, you can check their official website.

WestJet Bereavement Fare Requirements

WestJet offers a compassionate travel policy for those who are experiencing the loss of an immediate family member. To be eligible for the bereavement fare, the traveler must be a relative within the “first and second degree of kinship”, this includes: spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or a de-facto partner. This airline's policy is limited to its flights only and does not extend to travel on flights operated by partner airlines.

To qualify for WestJet's bereavement fare, you would need to contact their customer service representative through their call center, as this fare is not available online. They would require proof of death or imminent death such as a death certificate or a letter from a hospital or attending physician. It is also recommended to compare this fare with other available fares to ensure the most cost-effective choice. For more information about WestJet's bereavement fare requirements, you can visit their official website.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bereavement Flights

Next, we’ll be answering frequently asked questions about bereavement flights. Keep scrolling to see if it includes any of your remaining questions.

How much of a discount are bereavement fares?

Bereavement fares often provide a significant discount compared to conventional airfares. While the exact amount varies by airline, it's common for bereavement fares to offer reductions of anywhere from 10% to 50%.

However, due to the fluctuating nature of airline prices, there are instances where these fares may not always be the most cost-effective option. It's advisable to compare prices thoroughly before booking, as promotional or last-minute deals could potentially offer a better rate.

What proof do you need for a bereavement flight?

In order to qualify for a bereavement flight, airlines typically require that you submit documentation that provides proof of death or imminent death in the family. This documentation can take the form of a death certificate, a letter from the hospital, an attending physician, or an obituary. Some airlines may also request additional information such as the relationship to the deceased or critically ill individual, and details of the funeral or hospital location. It's important to note that each airline has different requirements for bereavement fares, so it's recommended to directly contact the airline's customer service for specific details. We provided a link to the bereavement policy page of several airlines in the sections above.

Does Southwest offer bereavement flights?

Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that does not offer bereavement fares. While many airlines offer discounted flights in times of family emergencies, Southwest maintains a policy of providing customers with low fares every day, and these fares may be lower than bereavement fares offered by other airlines. Nonetheless, the airline's customer service team may provide assistance and flexibility in booking last-minute flights during difficult times. It is recommended to contact Southwest directly for any specific inquiries or assistance.

Does American Airlines offer bereavement flights?

American Airlines, similar to Southwest, does not offer bereavement fares. While they acknowledge the necessity of travel during difficult times, their policy is to provide government or military fares in certain markets instead of emergency or bereavement fares. The unrestricted fares that they offer are fully refundable and do not require advance purchase. This may provide flexibility for those dealing with unexpected circumstances. As with any airline, it is advisable to contact American Airlines directly for specific inquiries or assistance.

Does United offer bereavement flights?

United Airlines discontinued its bereavement fare policy in 2014. Instead of offering a standard 5% bereavement discount, the airline now provides refunds for change fees in the event of a family emergency. To access this service, customers must submit a refund request online, accompanied by evidence of the emergency and proof of their relationship to the family member who is ill or has passed away. This policy might not provide an upfront discount, but it does offer flexibility and some financial relief for those needing to amend their travel plans due to unforeseen circumstances. As always, it's best to contact United Airlines directly for any specific inquiries or assistance.

The Death of a Loved One Is Difficult - Let Trust & Will Help

This guide provided an explanation of bereavement flights, and the policies of several major airlines that offer this type of travel relief for passengers undergoing a difficult time. 

It's important to note that the availability and terms of bereavement fares vary widely between airlines, and it is always best to contact the airline directly for the most accurate information. In these challenging times, Trust & Will is dedicated to providing support and valuable resources. For comprehensive resources on what to do when a loved one passes away, visit Trust & Will’s Learn Center. We’re always here for you.

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.


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