Wicked Good Travel Tips / Featured  / Emergency, Bereavement and Compassion Airfares – Who Offers Them and How To Get Them
23 Sep

Emergency, Bereavement and Compassion Airfares – Who Offers Them and How To Get Them

emergency airline tickets - Airport Check InIt’s been two years since we last wrote about Bereavement and Family Emergency Airfares, and I’m pleased to report that more US airlines finally have information posted on their websites about these types of fares. (Although you do have to do a targeted search in order to find the information)  It is still just the ‘big boys’ (legacy airlines) that offer emergency airfares.  The low cost carriers like JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit etc  simply do not offer these types of fares. I found it very surprising that while American, Continental, Delta and United all have ‘Compassion’ fare policies, US Airways does not. They are the only major US legacy airline that does not offer bereavement fares – shame on them!

Here is a breakdown of airlines that offer Bereavement, Compassion, or Emergency airfares, along with links for more information and phone numbers of where to call for tickets. NOTE: It is always necessary to secure these types of tickets by phone – they cannot be purchased on the airline’s websites.

American Airlines – Offers refundable Compassion Fares which allow for changes to the itinerary – making it convenient to change the date of return if necessary.  The reservations agent will search for specially designated compassion fares which may or may not be less expensive than a standard airfare for the time you will be traveling.  To inquire about a Compassion Airfare from American Airlines phone 800-433-7300.  We could not find any specific information about these fares on their website, so you will need to phone for all information.

Delta AirlinesBereavement Fares. Delta does offer emergency airfares and does an excellent job of providing  all the pertinent information on their website.  Similar to American, they have specially designated compassion airfares in their system that the reservation agent access for you.  You must phone Delta Reservations at 800-221-1212 for US compassion airfares.

Continental Airlines – Offers bereavement and emergency fares to customers traveling due to a serious illness or death of a family member.  They have a comprehensive explanation of their airfare policy on their Compassion Fares webpage.  Basically, they offer a 5% discount off standard airfares priced up to $499, 10% off fares from $500 – 999, and $20% off fares over $1,000.  It would be my guess that some time in the coming year Delta and Continental will merge their emergency airfare policy adopting either one company’s system or the other.  Phone Continental at 800-525-0280 for ticket reservations.

United Airlines – Compassion fares are offered by United and a full explanation appears on their Compassion Fares webpage.  Their Compassion Fares offer customers a 10% discount off any published fare for travel within six days.  The fares can be obtained by calling 800-864-8331.

Before placing a call to secure a compassion airfare you should have the following information available:

  • Full name of the family member and the reason for emergency travel
  • Explain the family member’s relationship to you
  • The name, address and phone number of the hospital and the name of the attending physician
  • Or name, address and phone number of funeral home

Most compassion airfares allow change fees to be waived if plans need to be altered after the ticket is issued.  You may find that ‘walk up’ fares on the low cost airlines are in fact less expensive than the compassion airfares, but if you suspect you’ll need to change the ticket, it may still be worth it to pay for the compassion fare.  And finally, don’t forget to try using your frequent flier miles for last minute tickets – this is when seats are often available.


  • Chrystie
    03/01/2011 at 9:50 pm

    Southwest does not offer emergency fares.

    I just called American to travel tomorrow to see my dying uncle. Their bereavement fare of $638 was more than 50% off regular fare but still much more than I can spend. I cashed in 25k miles plus $100 (plus $10 security fee).

    I then called United and their fare at 10% off was $1,400+ so I cashed in 37,500 miles plus $25 (plus $5 security fee). though this required more miles, it required less cash and they had nonstop flights.

    unfortunately, I will have to pay for baggage.

  • Chrystie
    03/01/2011 at 9:57 pm

    btw, the discounted fare I found online for the same ticket on United was $1062

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