Many legacy airlines in the U.S. offer "compassion fares" for the immediate family and closest relatives of a person who has passed away or is in a serious medical emergency. Compassion fares are usually unrestricted tickets that allow passengers to change dates and flight times without a change fee and fly on short notice. However, as the fare discount is usually just a percentage off the full-fare ticket, sometimes it is cheaper to just look at the lower-priced discount fares.

Participating Airlines

Many airlines, such as Delta, offer bereavement or compassion fares in North America. Low-cost airlines and some of the smaller national carriers may not have bereavement fares, but their prices may be priced so much lower than the "legacy" carriers that it is worth checking out their flight prices for last-minute fares before calling an airline for a bereavement fare.

Necessary Information

Make sure to collect the name, address and phone number of the hospital and physician where your family member or loved one is being treated for a medical emergency. The airline will need this information to verify your request when you call for a compassion fare. If the loved one has passed away, provide the name and number of the funeral home for verification. Some airlines may also ask you to mail a copy of the death certificate.

Making the Reservation

Don't forget to call the airline's reservation line to ask about "compassion fares." The agent will ask the full name of the deceased or critical patient and your relationship between him or her. If you have all of the pertinent information on hand, you will probably be able to reserve the ticket in one phone call. If you are not convinced that the airline's price is the lowest, ask the airline to hold the reservation without booking it while you search for other discounted fares.

Policy Details

Bereavement fare policies differ among airlines, but they are generally 10 to 20 percent off a given fare, with few or no restrictions on amending the reservation's schedule. These fares are not offered online. If the representative seems unable or unwilling to give you a discounted fare – regardless of the airline – ask to speak to a supervisor to see if you can work something out. While not all airlines are willing to be flexible on their policies, a little bit of true "compassion" does sometimes show through.