Family Emergency / Bereavement Airfares: Worth A Try

I recently learned that if you have to fly on short notice due to a medical emergency or a funeral, there is something called a “bereavement fare” or “compassion fare”. The rules differ between all the airlines, but basically if you qualify you get around 50% off the highest non-restricted airfare available. You’ll need to call each airline directly for details. These full fares can be extremely high, and even at half-off still way more than what you would get at a site like The main benefit to these fares is that you can usually change your arrival and departure dates much more easily and without penalty fees. Here is a good article at SmarterLiving that goes into more detail about bereavement fares.

First, we went browsing online. Usually when you sort the results by price it looks something like this: $300, $315, $340, $410, …

But given our short notice, it went like this: $300, $800, $900, …

I called to get a price quote for a bereavement fare and the price was about double the lowest online fare. Luckily, the flight schedule that was available for the lower price was something we could work around. If that flight schedule was sold out, we would have gone for the bereavement fare.

Another idea to try is that you can try to use your frequent flier miles, and if you qualify under their bereavement fare rules (and there is a frequent flier seat available) they may waive the 14-day advance booking requirement. In the end, it’s a good thing to know that these alternatives exist, especially due to the added flexibility. But it’s quite likely that you’ll be able to do better on your own.


  1. Nony-mouse says:

    yes, with the internet, most likely u can do better on ur own. For the past 1 year…i have noticed that even at the last minute, u can fly from coast to coast for about $400 or less.

  2. Ken Blakely says:

    I always keep a reserve of at least 25K United miles just for this reason. Unlike *all* other frequent flier programs I have encountered, United will let you get an award seat with only 24 hours notice and will let you change the specs of the trip for free as long as you don’t change the departure and destination – and all that is true *without* any bereavement hoopla. That’s just normal ops.

  3. I recently checked out a few sites (for this post)and didn’t find more than a 10% discount– who offers 50%?

  4. MoneyWar says:

    Different frequent flier programs will allow you to be able to get better TIME on the fights you need then the bereavement fare.14-day advance booking requirement?When some Family EMERGENCY pops up.How can you make 14-day advance booking?….Not a good rule there!

    American Experess have very good frequent filer program.That is the one I will use and get it cheaper then the bereavement fare.

  5. michelle K. says:

    My grandma will be 98 yrs. young in October. Her health is failing daily (Iowa), I live in Florida. I want to be there for her, but work doesn’t stop… I don’t have time to look for deals on flights, I drive wherever I go, this way I’m not without transportation. The way things are going, I have no choice… a flight is the way to go. Please help… what do I need to do. All my grandparents are gone, she’s been alone for 40 years.
    If I’m emailed, announce that it’s for “bereavement airfares.”

  6. Gail Albaugh says:

    my father is dying not sure if he will make it within the next 48 hrs. I am a mom of 3 that is unemployed and wanted to see if someone could either give me a good deal on a ticket or donate your miles so I can fly out tonight or early am tomorrow. I live in Southern California and my dad is in Chicago. If anyone could help me out, I would be most grateful. Times are tough. Today is July 7th. Thank you very much. Gail

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