When an unexpected death or medical emergency befalls a loved one far away, it is often very challenging to find and purchase an emergency airline ticket. It has always been the custom for airlines to charge the highest prices for tickets bought at the last minute, and even more if you don't know exactly when you will be returning.
For many years the airlines have offered bereavement airfares, but unfortunately most airlines have eliminated or dramatically reduced their family medical emergency and bereavement airfares in the past year. The airlines claim that competition has affected the marketplace so much that they just can no longer afford to reduce ticket prices any further. Really? We all know that last minute tickets with a flexible return date can often cost $1,000 or more! Thankfully three major US airlines are still committed to assisting folks during family medical emergencies. They are American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
Here are the steps you need to take to secure a bereavement or family medical emergency reduced rate airline ticket:
1) You must phone the airline's reservation department. Contact American Airlines at 800-433-7300, Northwest Airlines at 800-225-2525, or United at 800-241-6522. Information for this type of ticket does not exist online. Airlines don't even admit they have such fares on their websites! Tell the reservation agent that you need a medical emergency or bereavement reduced rate airline ticket and what the circumstances are.
2) You must be an immediate family member - sister, brother, parent, child, grandchild etc. If you have extenuating circumstances, by all means explain them to the agent, they have been known to bend the rules from time to time.
3) The airline agent will verify the information you are telling them, so have the following information at hand for verification: Your relative's full name, Name and phone number of the funeral home
or Name and phone number of the hospital or medical facility, Name and phone number of the attending physician.
Flights should be able to be booked in the course of one phone call, so be prepared with your desired dates and times of travel before placing the phone call. If the first agent you speak with does not seem able or willing to deal with your request, end the call and dial in again. Finally, you may want to check on Priceline.com, Kayak.com and with low cost carriers that serve your area to see what a standard ticket would cost. You may find that there is a less expensive option available online than with a reduced rate bereavement ticket.