There are times when a sudden illness or death in the family precludes you from the luxury of searching around for low-cost air fares to reach your loved ones. Although most airlines do not offer services to accommodate this situation, Delta does have a bereavement policy in the event of death or imminent death in your immediate family; however, this appears to be only in connection with air travel out of the United States.
Timing is everything; however, there are situations where advance planning for air travel is not possible. Such a situation would be in the event of the death or imminent death of a family member. If you should have to travel out of the United States in order to attend to the responsibilities associated with a family member, some airline offers bereavement fares. These are offered to customers who require last-minute travel options. They are usually refundable and very flexible. In most instances, the fares will be discounted, with the range between 10 to 75% off full fare prices, the average being 50%.
Delta is one airline that offers bereavement fares; however, they must be purchased in person at any Delta ticketing location. The fares are not posted on the official delta.com website. Delta also has a section with information for funeral directors and family members how must transport human remains and personal effect.
In order to qualify for these fares, Delta has specific definitions as to who qualifies as an immediate family member. The list includes: spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, sister, brother, step-parent, step-child, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, stepbrother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and stepsister.
Delta requires documentation in order to prove familial relations and the documentation must be provided at the time the ticket is purchased. Such documentation consists of the passenger's relationship to the deceased, the name and phone number of the funeral home, hospital or hospice facility and the name of the treating physician, if applicable.
Bereavement travel must start within seven days of the death or imminent death of the family member (documentation again required); fares are completely refundable and changes, standby and open returns are permitted; however, stopovers are not. If the traveler is a member of SkyMiles, he may be entitled to Platinum Medallion or North American upgrades.
If you choose to travel with a carrier other than Delta, contacting the airlines may be a viable option. It appears that most airlines have done away with hardship flights and full-price fares may be the only option. The most viable option seems to be looking for last minute flights on websites such as cheaptickets.com, lastminutetravel.com or priceline.com. Sometimes it might be advisable to contact the airlines in the area to which you need to travel, explaining your situation and seeing if they can offer any type of accommodations. Another source, although not as recommended would be to post an ad on Craig's List, being very specific about your travel requirements.