When my 81-year-old uncle died in Pensacola, FL on the first Friday of August 2019, his next journey of 1,100 miles placed him in our hometown of Omaha, NE. My family members, too, trekked from several states by planes, trains, buses and automobiles to Uncle Sam’s funeral and burial.
Yet, the real trip was wading through the varied policies and rules on bereavement travel discounts. Hunting for bereavement and emergency rates is not your typical fun thing to do, unless you are in the funeral services business or a travel agent. Travel discount discussions about end-of-life are avoided or never conducted.
Part of the reason is that the bereavement, compassion and emergency rates are not easily understandable. It’s stressful enough dealing with trauma associated with a death of a loved one, whether it was immediate or anticipated after a lengthy illness. Add sorting through the tons of different rules by carriers and hotels to achieve discount rates, and it almost becomes unmanageable and therefore, often the grieving travelers end up paying too much for their travels.
Now that my uncle’s services have passed, I’m happy to share what I have unearthed from the latest emergency and bereavement offers among the airlines, buses, trains and hotels. Because of the time-sensitive nature of our travel, I relied on trustworthy blogs such as https://thepointsguy.com/guide/airline-bereavement-fares/ . It also helps that my sister is a hotel concierge and she guided my logistics.
Don’t cry: It’s personal
Also, most of the carriers and hotels will award the discounts if bereaved travelers are members of its respective loyalty programs. It is helpful to check online for the general policies, yet beware that what is published online may not be the latest information.
Despite my tips and that of others, if the discount travel shopping cause additional stress, choose stress-free living. Cheaper fares are no match for peace of mind.
The journey begins
Amtrak announces on its website that the train carrier offers bereavement rates. It doesn’t. I spoke with two persons from Amtrak and also tweeted a query. It shores up my recommendation to check with each company on its policies. I know it is time consuming during a time-sensitive mourning period.
Another piece of advice is to consider the low-cost offers on sites like Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, Cheap Tickets and more. Compare the travel website rates to the bereavement fares.
Delta Airlines, 1-800-221-1212, has a bereavement page on its website that offers answers to most queries about its policy to obtain discounts. Be sure to call Delta if you wish to book a flight at its bereavement rate of 10 – 20 percent. They asked if my relative had a frequent flyer number and thankfully, he did. That is how we yielded a flight at a great rate. You also have to call Jet Blue, 1-800-Jet-Blue, to get discounts for the family members and the mourners attending public services of firefighters, police officers and others in similar professions. Like Delta and Jet Blue, Air Canada, 1-888-247-2262, wants the bereaved to call to finalize details displayed on its website page. The carrier’s bereavement page explains that its policy on discounts for travel and refunds for tickets that were booked at full rates.
Lufthansa offers discounts for the bereaved. In its words, ” In the event of a death abroad Lufthansa offers immediate family members special fares for outbound and return flights to attend the funeral if their journey starts in the USA or Canada. Customers from the USA or Canada are kindly requested to contact their Lufthansa reservations office in the USA or Canada before the start of their trip for further information and to make a booking.” Its number is 1 800 – 645 3880.
Yet, one of my other favorite airlines, Southwest Airlines, 1-800-435-9792, offers condolences to the bereaved and yet does not provide discounts. Frontier Airlines,1-801-401-9000, also does not offer discounts in its fares, yet it has a very liberal refund policy for emergencies that include bereavement.
Check with other airlines and all hotels for special rates and sometimes waived fees for ground transportation and room costs.
Where to lay your head
My family prefers the Marriott hotels and for good reasons. Much like the airlines, if you are members of its loyalty program, the hotel chain offers lower rates for its rooms. Also, similar to the airlines, contact each hotel, compare the bereavement or compassion rates to that of the low-cost airfares offered on travel websites.
Consider other sources
Groupon, for instance, has discount coupons on its websites for low cost travel in times of emergencies. Some ‘plan ahead’ funeral services offer to arrange and pay for travel for the bereaved. My advice is to read the fine print and check the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and other oversight agencies for ethical practices.
Recap: Connect the dots
- Take a breath. Choose mindfulness techniques as sitting in peaceful stillness before planning your travel.
- Organize your “proof of death” materials and your relationship to the deceased. If the materials are not readily available to you, the funeral home’s contact information can be used as verification by the carriers, hotels and rental car companies.
- Check airline discount fares first and compare it to the bereavement, emergency, compassion rates offered by major carriers and hotels, motels.
- Choose stress-free over haggling over cheapest rates. Save your grieving energy.
- Remember all of the loving condolences extended to your family or close friend. I offer my condolences and wishes for safe travels.