Is “heartless” Southwest Airlines profiting from dad’s death?

Jennifer Kucinski lives in Kansas City. Her father lives in Orlando. Make that lived in Orlando.

A few weeks ago, she received devastating news that her dad had passed away unexpectedly. Compounding that tragedy was the fact that Southwest Airlines was trying to stick her with two overpriced plane tickets, a decision she calls “heartless.”

“Upon reaching the agent and explaining the situation, the first words out of the agents mouth were, ‘We don’t offer bereavement fares’,” she says.

Many readers of this site know how the system works. Bereavement fares are all but extinct, mostly because passengers took advantage of them and the abuse cost airlines a lot of money. As a result, regular non-business travelers like Kucinski must pay the full walk-up fare for their planet tickets when they fly to a funeral.

Is that fair? Probably not. But the ethically-challenged passengers who used to lie about their aunt or uncle dying so they could get discounted plane tickets — that wasn’t fair to the airlines, either.

The question today is: What should I do with bereavement fare problems? Do I send them to the airline and ask them to reconsider them? Do I tell them “tough luck” — it’s the price you pay for a ticket? (Sorry about the death of your father or mother, by the way.)

Related: In today’s edition of What’s your problem?, there’s some trouble on the range.

I wrestle with this question all the time, and not just with Southwest Airlines plane tickets.

Let’s get back to Kucinski’s experience.

I told the agent we needed to be on the first flight to Orlando, and asked what my flight options were.

I was then told that there were only a few seats left on a flight, and that the fare was $441 per seat.

When I asked if she could help me out with a lower fare, I was informed if I wanted a cheaper fare, I needed to look on the website.

We did not have time to go fare shopping online. We had limited time to get to the airport, so we made the only decision possible and out of desperation we took the fare.

I was insulted and very disappointed by the lack of empathy and posture shown by the airline in our time of need.

I understand how Kucinski must have felt. I get the book thrown in my face every day as a consumer advocate, and it never gets easier. While the agent might have been a little nicer about her plane tickets, she was just doing her job. Southwest Airlines — and indeed, most airlines, don’t offer bereavement fares, even when you show a death certificate.

Fortunately, the return tickets only cost $188 a piece. But Kucinski is still upset. No airline should profit from death, she asserts.

“I find it hard to believe that a $12.1 billion corporation which has the heart of the matter exhibits such behavior in a person’s time of tragedy,” she told me.

Kucinski took the matter of her plane tickets up with Southwest Airlines after she returned to Kansas City.

I contacted the customer service department and relayed my experience to a an agent who apologized, and transferred me to a manager. After an enlightening discussion with the manager, I was told that was the only fare available and that is why I was charged that amount and there was nothing they could do for me.

I feel my experience contradicts the alleged values of this corporation.

And what, exactly, are those “alleged” values?

Here’s Southwest’s mission statement: “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.”

This is the first time in my years of advocating for airline customers that someone has invoked a mission statement.

But you know what? She got me on that one.

There’s a relatively happy resolution to this case, but before I get to that, let me set up today’s “Can this trip be saved?” question. Should I mediate bereavement fare cases? Or should I offer the same answer, which is that these special fares are more or less gone now?

I contacted Southwest on Kucinski’s behalf. She emailed me a few days ago with good news.

A representative from Southwest called last week and they credited us $138 — $69 for each ticket.

They also informed us that if we needed to call for a reservation and we didn’t have access to a computer, that a call needs to be made the customer relations specifically in Dallas at a specific phone number that is not advertised.

Thank you for calling Southwest on our behalf, it is appreciated.

I love a happy ending. But I can’t do this for every airline passenger who has a death in the family. Or can I?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Mark

    $441 is not an outrageous fare.  Sometimes you can sit back and get a bargain, but sometimes you have to pay the price for immediate service.  I would be a lot more outraged if Southwest wanted $1000 for these tickets, but this is a reasonable last-minute fare.  Amtrak charges $316 for an immediate departure from Kansas City and it is a 50 hour trip.  

  • Cydonia

    I’m not sure if this is how you vote on these questions or not. I don’t see a poll, per se, anywhere. However, my vote is yes, to continue advocating for bereavement fares. Just because this one wasn’t totally outrageous, there are others which are, and that is wrong. On another note, I believe the airlines should be held accountable to their mission statements more often! These statements don’t ever state a caveat, such as “when it’s beneficial to our bottom line.” They simply say they are there for the customer…and they should be!

  • Carver

    Of course you should advocate bereavement fares issues.  You are wrong to believe that nothing can be done.  The higher ups can override anything.  Its just a matte of finding the right person who is empowered  to say yes, and then convince him or her to exercise their discretion on your behalf.

    Case in point, Southwest has an unpublished line for special requests.  I didn’t know it, I’m sure the ticket agents didn’t know.  If we just give up we’ll never know.  Good for the OP in not giving up.

  • Tom

    Too many people picked a name out of a newspaper obituary and claimed it was their uncle.

    In this case, however, the fare was $441 Kansas City to Orlando. It’s more than 1,000 miles. Berevement fares on that route were higher when the airlines were regulated and offered berevement fares than non-berevement fares are today.

  • ChrisY

    You wrote what I was going to write: Four hundred bucks to take you from KC to Orlando, last minute?  What a bargain.

    I also find it a bit frustrating to read OP “enhancements” such as:

     “..the first words out of the agents mouth were…” as though to paint the agent in a bad light.  I understand you’re grieving, but what do you want the agent to do?

    “…$12.1 billion corporation which has the heart of the matter exhibits such behavior in a person’s time of tragedy” …..What behavior?  Charging you the price of a ticket to take you somewhere? 

    “I was insulted and very disappointed by the lack of empathy and posture shown by the airline in our time of need.”  Really?  Insulted?  Finding out that a last minute ticket that works out to less than 1/2 cent per mile is ‘insulting’? 

    By the very sense of entitlement alone, I voted “No” to mediating typical bereavement cases like this.   I agree there can be cases of airlines going overboard, but I had to read twice to make sure the OP was complaining about a $400 ticket.

  • ChrisY

    Oops.  1/2 cent = fifty cents or half a dollar.  38 cents to be exact.  Much cheaper than the IRS per-mile rate.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    I don’t think the fare was out of line. Bereavement fares no longer exist. Regardless of a passenger’s reason for flying, the airlines responsibility is to get them to their destination. Anyone on that flight could have dead or dying relative or just vacationing. This may sound heartless, but just because your flying for a death in the family doesn’t entitle a person to special fares. Everyone has issues. There shouldn’t be different fare rates for different people based on why you are flying.

    Sounds like she was more upset about the customer service, which is a legitimate complaint. It is reasonable to expect the agent on the phone to be professional.

    Do not mediate bereavement fares. These passengers aren’t being “wronged” by the industry. The OP in this case was asked to pay the same posted fare that everyone else would have to pay. Stick with the people who have legitimate problems.

  • Raven_Altosk

    $441 is NOT an “outrageous” fare, especially when it is last minute walk up.

    Someone needs to put her big girl panties on and grow up. Sorry about her loss, but does that mean she’s allowed to demand to “name her own price?”

    I think not.

  • Phil

    The airfare she paid was the airfare anyone would pay for the last minute booking, it doesn’t make any difference what the circumstances are. Should there be special last minute fares for executives called away at the last minute, or special fares for people who decide to take a last minute holiday? To bad, so sad, that’s the way it. She also could have taken a few more minutes and checked a web site or two for other  fares, after all she did have the time to call WN

  • Lee Keels

    The poll is right before these comments at the end of the story!

  • BillC

    As sorry as are for her loss this does not entitle to a cheap(er) flight. We might not like the fact that airline do not offer bereavement fares but this is not a reason to get involved. Please do not waste your time.

  • Mike in PA (Used to be NC)

    I think it should be a qualified “yes.”  Listen to the case before deciding whether or not intervention could work.

  • emanon256

    In my experience, the bereavement fares were usually very close to full fare, just less than the cost of a fully refundable ticket.  After the discount fares proliferated the travel industry, I think the bereavement fare became all but extinct. The last time I needed a bereavement fare, the discount fares available were cheaper.
    $441 per seat for a next day flight is a really good fare, I am surprised.  I have trouble finding fares that low a month in advance.  Also, Southwest widely advertises their best rates are their web-only fares.  I also think booking a ticket on-line is faster than by phone, and you have your flight number, times, etc. al right there to print off, rather than hoping some agent will remember to e-mail it to you.  Not to mention, checking in and printing your itinerary also requires using a computer.  I think it would have been faster to just go to the southwest website.  It’s not like they were fare shopping, they called Southwest.
    I am sorry if I don’t sound sympathetic.  But I don’t believe the airline is trying to profit from someone’s death, they are simply doing business as they always do business, and it sounds like Kucinski is trying to profit from her father’s death.  If you really want to pick a bone with someone profiting from death, complain about the ridiculous cemetery fees and coffin prices, not to mention “monuments” those places make ridiculous profits, and you can’t even shop on-line for a better rate.

  • Alex

    This is an easy no. There is no such thing as a bereavement fare anymore. You might as well advocate for full meals in coach or free baggage. Those days are gone.

    However, this is a really good time to advocate for being smart with having frequent flier miles or transferable credit card reward points. I have often found low-bucket tickets available when I had to travel at the last minute and have saved hundreds of dollars just by having the miles/points around.

  • Charlie

    No airline should profit from death, she asserts.

    But apparently the company that performed the funeral and charged $6,000 – $10,000 or more, at a time when grieving relatives are most vulnerable, and made a huge profit on her father’s death is okay. 

    Airlines deserve most of the ill will expessed by consumers over poor customer service, high baggage fees, and more, and I have been among the more vocal of those critics.  This is a case where the bad rap is unwarranted, unless Ms. Kucinski expected, asked for, and received a discount for every product or service rendered that was associated with this time of mourning.  

  • Rachel

    When I flew at the last minute due to a grandparent’s death, I couldn’t get a ticket for less than $1200 (6 hours in advance of the flight) – only full Y was available. If I had to pay that, I would, although I just ended up using frequent flier miles on Delta.

    The real advantage of such fares (and you don’t actually need such a fare for this) is that they will typically waive a change fee if you need more time or something else comes up. Just send in the death certificate or other document and they will often allow free changes, depending on the airline of course.

  • pizo

    I voted no because as others have said, while a sudden death is sad and unexpected, there are many other things which come up and are unexpected.  Ms. Kucinski lost her father which I’m sure was devestating to her but what if someone else on that flight had to fly to Orlando because a family member had to undergo a big surgery?  Or was sick and about to die?  Does only Ms. Kucinski get a special fare? 

    Is it taking advantage to charge people higher rates?  You can say that it both is and isn’t.  Hopefully most people don’t have to pay those last minute fares due to sudden illnesses and deaths very often. 

  • toniv

    WHY someone is flying shouldn’t affect the price. At ALL. Airlines don’t give special fares to folks on business trips trying to save dozens (if not hundreds) of jobs. They don’t give special fares to folks visiting sick or dying relatives. If you don’t have the cash or credit to purchase a last-minute plane ticket in case of an emergency, then you have to drive. Airlines don’t make it a secret whether they do/do not offer “bereavement” fares, so you can’t pretend to be surprised either way. If the fact that they don’t makes you angry, take it up with the scores of folks who abused the special fares. 

  • Kimber

    I voted no, but that’s for individual cases.  I would like to see you continue to advocate for bereavement fares in general…  there must be a way to stop abuse while still allowing it for those in need.  I know that when my grandma died several years ago, we needed to get documentation from the mortuary.  I don’t see why that couldn’t continue to be offered and work.

  • Guest

    I’m not sure why anyone would think their sorrow should be shared by the airlines. In fact, I’m not sure why there should have ever been something known as a bereavement fare. Maybe in the good old days when there was full service – meals, blankets, pillows, legroom and a seat wider than 17″ – but surely when you have to pay for a small snack or to board early or to have an aisle seat or to check luggage, it should come as no surprise that you also have to pay the published fare.

  • Donna

    Wow, I’m surprised by what appears to be a lack of compassion in the comments.  True, $441 for a walk up fare is not so bad actually. I agree with you all there.  But to say that someone who’s close relative died shouldn’t get a better fare than someone else walking up for a ticket, to me is not right.  Others who get a walk up fare are doing it for less urgent reasons, MOST of the time.  There is NO WAY to plan a trip for an unexpected death.  Plunking down a heft sum is really not fair to a lot of people and not a lot can come up with that kind of money on a moment’s notice, but they still need to get to their loved one’s home. So yes, I say continue to mediate for bereavement cases on a case by case basis.  If someone is being charged over $1,000 and can show you proof via death certificate, I say DEFINITELY step up to the plate.  

  • Mark K

    While I understand that when faced with the death of a relative most people don’t want to deal with the details like finding a cheap air fare to get to the funeral, but you have to.  It is part of life.  The companies you do business with don’t care why you need what you need and they offer their services at the same price to everyone.  

    I think one of the issues leading to the “high” fare was the request to be on the “first flight.”  Looking at fares right now for the same flight departing today on WN shows that the “first flight” (and most of the flights for today) is the price quoted to the OP.  But there are flights later this evening available only online that are $189, including a non-stop.  (Not saying the same situation existed on the day the OP wanted to travel, but it could have been.)  It would have taken 5 minutes to go online and book it, probably less time than what was spent on the phone. 

    If the only reason the OP called was in hope of a bereavement fare, then the agent’s statement that WN doesn’t offer that fare and instructions on how to possibly find a lower fare were not out of line.  Maybe the agent could have sounded more sympathetic, but I think the OP simply overreacted due to the situation.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I’m not sure I would have mediated this one, much less future problems of this nature.

    In 2004, my mother died unexpectedly in Ohio two weeks after we moved to Arizona from Ohio.  We had to hurry up and get to an airport two hours away.  While I was packing my husband, my son and I, making arrangements for the dogs and talking to siblings, my husband was online getting the plane tickets.  We were looking at about $1000 per ticket through Delta (out of Tucson) and looked at flying out of Phoenix, which ended up being much, much less.  As Phoenix is four hours away instead of two, we made the command decision to wait until the next day to leave so we could drive up there, spend the night in a hotel and catch an early flight out of PHX.  Getting there a day earlier wouldn’t have made anything change irreparably and we saved about $1500.

    Also, $441 is about right for Southwest when you look for anything less than 14 days advance purchase.  Also, Southwest isn’t quite the uncaring airline people say it is sometimes.  When the rubber hits the road, they really do step up to the plate.  This ticketing agent did all he/she could do and gave the fare that was available.  To say they’re being heartless is more than a little unfair.

  • $16635417

    I’m sorry for the OP’s loss. Now…grow up.

    Bereavement fares were put in place when air travel was very expensive. Believe it or not…it no longer is.

    I recall bereavement fares being half of the lowest nonrefundable fare. (From my own experience, when my father passed away 20 years ago.)

    The lowest non-refundable fare on Delta for today is $770, but the non-refundable walkup fare is $205 on Delta. (Availability may have differed on her day of travel.) True, it’s not a nonstop, that is where Southwest has a monopoly on the market.

    So…assuming she was traveling on a busy day, it’s possible another carrier would have charged almost twice as much…for a connecting flight.

    Did she get the best fare, no. Did she get the best fare available, possibly.

    And Chris, do you believe bereavement fares truly are extinct soley because of abuse? I mean, $200 for a one way from Kansas City to Orlando for purchasing a ticket today for travel today? That was unheard of 20 years ago, even in 1991 dollars. How cheap does it have to be? If fare is an issue, there is always Greyhound…oh wait they are almost $200 one way as well!

  • Gerry

    Terribly unfortunate but a reality that we all must deal with. It really would have taken just a few minutes to check competing prices on-line or better yet, to have called a TRavel Agent who could have done this within minutes as well.

    I understand that one’s mind may not be focused but we should all be prepared for these events.

    As far as the airline |profiting”: Did the Funeral Hall, Cementary, Minister, Catering Company, etc., etc. all do their part “free”? Certainly not. Death is a business. Plan ahead, regardless of how gruesome a task like this is.


  • $16635417

    You know….next time I have to drive to a funeral, I will demand a discount from the gas stations.

    I should also get a discount at the restaurant I eat at along the way.

    How about the dry cleaners, I have to have my black suit cleaned after.

    If I need to stay at a hotel, they should give me a discount as well.

    I’ll ask my cell carrier for credits on my phone minutes arranging everything and speaking to bereaved loved ones.

    I’ll ask my customers to still pay me for my time away from work and ask my bank for a reduction in my mortgage payment for the time away from the house to attend.

    Comcast, you owe me a credit too since I won’t be home to use cable and internet.

    My car payment should get a discount that month and I should get a discount on and services needed relating to the trip. (Oil change, etc.)

    Anything else?

  • Guest

    Not to seem heartless either, but I wonder if the OP tried exploring other airlines prior to Southwest? Or was Southwest really the only one available to her that time?

    Going to what Chris posted:

    I was insulted and very disappointed by the lack of empathy and posture shown by the airline in our time of need.

    I guess this is the main reason why the OP vented about this, especially if the agent indeed didn’t express some form or degree of empathy. I wonder if all this would’ve been avoided if the agent at least did just that, even though obviously one can’t really force that.

    If anything, you just try to anticipate certain situations like that one, prepare as best as you can, and empathize yet be firm if you really feel you need to draw the line somewhere. Speaking of which, Chris, it’s ultimately up to you where you want to draw the line dealing with cases like these.

    At least you have an inkling what we folks on the travel provider side also went and go through every other day. We’re also human, after all, even though others can freely disagree.

  • Vf2648

    Dear Chris, Two years ago, I had a similar problem- I was already in Florida helping take care of my Dad and had plans to return to NY on a specific date.  Unfortunately, my father passed away while I was still there and I needed to change my return ticket to “unknown”, as there was his home and estate to settle.  Jet Blue was extremely accomodating- all I had to do was provide the funeral home telephone number, they called to confirm the veracity of my predicament, and voila! I had an open ended return ticket with no fees!  All this in about 20 minutes.  I couldn’t have asked for more in that time of stress.

  • Guest

    These statements don’t ever state a caveat, such as “when it’s beneficial to our bottom line.”

    Do you honestly want to hear or see such caveats, anyway? Perhaps mission statements or similar ought to be realistic as well, although it’s sometimes a challenge coming up with some like that yet are maybe pleasing to third parties’ eyes.

  • cowboyinbrla

    I agree, though I’m still mystified by this mythical era when seats were wider – given that all Boeing single-aisle planes (except the mini 717) – the 707, 727, 737, and 757 have ALL had exactly the same diameter and the same 3-3 seating pattern. Unless the armrests have gotten huge or the aisles have widened (neither of which seems likely), the seats on Boeing jets, at least, have always been about this wide.

    Maybe things were different on DC-9’s and MD-80’s and such – I’ll have to check someday… but my perception is that seats in planes are the same size, it’s what goes into them that’s getting bigger.

  • Asiansm Dan

    A good travel agent can help better than the airlines. They know the consolidators and a lot of people willing to sell their free ticket (it’s hypocrite that saying there isn’t a market of free ticket out there , even it’s prohibited by the FF programs).
    There are also all inclusive package (Flight+hotel+car) that cost less than a round-trip ticket at last minute. Usually you need a place to stay and to rest at destination too. Stay with relative is a lot a stress on these occasion.
    When my mother passed away in Switzerland, I paid a RT ticket of 2200$ but the discount is 1200$. So the TA charge me 2200$ on my credit card (as the price on the ticket) and they write a check of 1200$ right away back to me. So my ticket only 1000$. I guess they did it via a consolidator.

  • Anna

    Free peanuts!?

  • Lindaj

    The days of a bereavement fare has long since past.  Last minutes fares are “best available’ fares and that’s it.  It’s unfortunate, but those that abused the fare caused this to happen for the rest of the honest folks.  That’s it!

  • AirlineEmployee

    Oh…..finally……Southwest has become like every other legacy carrier – their agents are indifferent and lacking in customer service and common sense…..If you didn’t advocate nothing would have changed.  Totally unbelievable since WN can do no wrong (sarcasm on). 

  • BeenThere

    I am sympathetic to Ms. Kucinski.  However, while I might prefer that airlines show greater compassion in difficult circumstances such as these, I think having Chris mediate problems like this could ultimately diminishes his influence in resolving more interesting and complex issues that are truly beyond the average consumer’s ability to address on their own. 

    A lot has already been said that I agree with, but let me focus on something that (I think) has been missed:  Southwest suggested if she wanted a cheaper fare, that she should look on the web site.  This was NOT an idle suggestion!  Southwest has always offered a number of “web only” fares that are often substantially discounted from full fare.  Without intending to sound harsh, let’s be honest here:  Ms. Kucinski
    was given an option by the CSR, one that might have saved her hundreds
    of dollars, and she refused to be bothered.  Now, I wasn’t there, but the excuse that she did not have time to shop online, but did have time to sit and argue with the CSR, just doesn’t fly with me.  Southwest Airline’s web site is easy, quick, and simple to use and, in my opinion, the best and most efficiently organized web site for fare shopping anywhere. 

    Again, I am sympathetic … but I have to vote no. 

  • Joe Farrell

    OK, so why did she call Southwest?  Was that the only airline she called? 

    The OP said very clearly that she did not want to be bothered with looking online for a better fare – she wanted to be in Orlando right that minute.  She had to pay for that pleasure.  End of story.   She made the decision that she needed to leave right then and not bother with talking with anyone else. 

    Look – this may sound heartless, but her father was not going anywhere and there was nothing she could do until she got there – I know people feel some irrational emotional pull to be there right now – but honestly – what would have happened if she spent 10 min online at and  [and maybe Jetblue and Air Tran?]  Would they have buried her father in that 10 minutes? 

    This is a situation where emotions get the better of people and they run around all bereft of basic common sense – 

    I may actually be utterly heartless but I told me mother when I was on the west coast at college and all of my family was on the east coast not to wake me up unless someone died – and even then – if they died to wait until morning because at 3am what I can do about it 3000 miles away in the middle of the night?  If my very close relatives passed I kind of assumed they’d wait for me to get there – so – the 30 minutes you spend to save $250 is well spent even if you are being irrational. 


  • Clare

    There’s a distinction that should be made here.  On the one hand, it sounds like the Southwest agent was simply telling the OP the truth.  On the other hand, she certainly sounds like she was incredibly heartless about doing it!  If Southwest doesn’t have a bereavement policy, it’s unreasonable for a customer to expect the agent to suddenly cook one up on the spot.  But given the fact that the potential customer, standing right in front of her, just had a death in the family, it seems pretty obvious that the agent could have couched the information in more humane terms–consistent with Southwest’s mission statement.  And if she had a few spare minutes, why not help the OP out by looking for a lower fare on the computer that was no doubt right in front of her?  That would have been a Good-Samaritan act that (a) in itself cost the airline nothing and (b) the OP would have appreciated–EVEN IF she still ended up paying the same rate anyway!

    So while we might disagree with the OP’s idea that she should have received a lower rate than she got, it’s much easier (IMO) to agree with her that “the lack of empathy…in time of need… was insulting.”  That’s presumably why Southwest later apologized, no?

    I’m surprised to hear about rampant fraud on bereavement fares–it was always my understanding that you had to supply a copy of the death certificate to the airline, or else they’d charge you the full fare after-the-fact.  (I never had the experience personally, but knew people in the past who did.)  Wasn’t that simply SOP, designed to prevent exactly the kind of fraud that Chris describes? 

  • John

    People like this lady, and featuring cases like this make me no longer want to read this column. Talk about a *non* story.

  • BeenThere

    Just out of curiosity, I just checked the Southwest web site to price a one way ticket from Kansas City (MCI) to Orlando (MCO) for today, 11/12.  The “Anytime” fare = $446.  The “web only” fare = $189.  And it took me less time to find that than it would to dial the phone. 

    Lesson here:  Sometimes, try listening to the CSR instead of insisting they listen to you. 

  • Guest

    We’re all human. :)

  • BeenThere

    Oops, I meant 11/14.  Sorry. 

  • Mel

    When my Father in Law passed away in December in Hawaii, we had to get there for the funeral in 3 days.  You can imagine 1) the skepticism of the agent that I just happened to want to fly to Hawaii for a funeral in December and 2) the cost of last minute phone fares from the Midwest to Hawaii at that time of year. Fortunately, while I was on the phone trying to deal with United (at that time our preferred airline) my son was on the computer and found us fares almost $200 per seat cheaper on Continental.  What irritated me was that those fares should have been available to me from the agent on the phone, or at least she should have had the ability and the authority to price match at her discretion. 

  • Guest

    This is a situation where emotions get the better of people and they run around all bereft of basic common sense

    Can’t really help but agree with that one, especially when other arguably simpler options existed in the first place anyway.

  • Shannon R.

    Sometimes I don’t see the polls either…

  • Michael K

    False comparison: People can arrange their funerals indefinitely far in advance, when no one is grieving.  There are also many organizations that assist with funeral arrangements for families in financial need.

    You can’t (AFAIK) purchase open-ended insurance to avoid the OP’s situation.

  • Amaiero

    The seats and armrests didn’t get bigger its the pitch between seats that has become shorter. They added more rows of seats by pushing them closer together so there is less pitch between your legs and the seat in front of you. More seats equal more tickets and thus more money. And yes what goes into them has indeed grown as well.

  • cowboyinbrla

    I understand that, Amaiero. But that doesn’t explain why people think seats used to be WIDER.

  • sdir

    To be fair, just because a CSR has a computer doesn’t mean he/she has access to the internet or to the company’s website.  Not to mention, the point of an internet fare is because the CUSTOMER looks it up, not the CSR.  Besides, even if the CSR was able to look it up, I doubt the customer would be willing to go online and book it themselves.  After all, she didn’t “have time” to do it.

  • LTMG

    Companies are not social welfare agencies.  Companies are neither staffed nor trained to provide social welfare benefits, nor should consumers expect that.  Governments tax companies to, in part, provide social welfare benefits.

    While I empathize with Ms. Kucinski’s loss, I do not sympathize with her unrealistic expectation of Southwest Airlines.

    If I were the CEO of an airline, I might be persuaded to offer the lowest regular fare to a bereaved person provided that the customer show copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc. to prove the direct famililial releationship with the deceased.  In this way, as CEO, I would be attending to the fiduciary responsibility I have for my shareholders.

  • sdir

    Not for nothing, but Southwest wasn’t the only one trying to “profit” from this sad situation.  The customer was demanding a discount and when she didn’t get her way, she went to Chris to demand one on her behalf.  While I sympathize with the passing of a loved one, weren’t her actions also “profiting”?  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • Joe Farrell

    But she had ‘time’ to spend 20 min on the phone with a CSR berating the company for a) not having a lower fare and b) begging her  for one and c) giving her all the information required orally . . . .

    Gimmee a break here. 

  • Mark K

    Customer Service agents have no discretion to do anything at all that does not appear on the computer screen in front of him/her.  Even managers can’t do a lot these days to vary from the script.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Donna, in this case, the original poster was in Kansas City. Her father died in Orlando. There might not even BE a death certificate at the time she started trying to get a flight; and if there is, it won’t prove she’s his daughter. That’s the problem with bereavement fares; there’s usually almost no way to prove the traveler is a close relative for quite some time after death. And then, that confirmation process (calling a funeral home, having them prepare a statement acknowledging the traveler’s relationship, having a family member on that end sign off on it, etc.) can eat up a huge amount of a staff member’s time – enough to negate any reasonable discount the airline might be able to offer.

    As for “need to get to their loved one’s home” – well, need is relative. Sometimes I *need* to travel for work, on short notice, and is it “fair” to me (being self-employed) that I have to come up with last-minute fare money? Inherent in your note is the idea that a bereaved person has some sort of *right* to travel at a cheaper fare than others, at the last minute, and maybe even far cheaper if he or she “can’t come up with that kind of money on a moment’s notice”. What do these people do when, say, an $800 car repair bill rears its ugly head?

  • Joe Farrell

    The seats did not get narrower – people got wider – lose some weight for gosh sakes – get your bmi under 25. . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    funeral homes are a whole ‘nuther issue when it comes to profit . . .  guess what folks – EVERYTHING – even funerals – are negotiable.  I saved my in-laws 10k together when they planned their funerals by a) negotiating the price in advance with a funeral home and then b) purchasing insurance to cover it – when my FIL passed this past June the home tried to nickle and dime my MIL and I was there to stand up to them and point out their agreements 8 years ago as to what they would provide – regardless of the current cost.  

    Morticians as a group are vultures . . . and every bit as moral. 

  • David

    Agree, but that’s not really the point.  There is a cost for “immediate convenience.”  Regardless of the circumstance, if you want something “right now” there’s a price for that.  The fact that someone has died is not relevant to the supplier — nor to the businessman who needed to grab those last seats for a meeting but couldn’t because the OP got them!  He might have been willing to pay $1,000 to make that meeting, but the OP got them for a ‘bargain’ price of $441.00

  • Bodega

    As someone who has issued scores of bereavement tickets, those who are upset with WN don’t understand.  WN has good low last minute fares and as such, they don’t offer bereavement fares.  Plain and simple, that is their policy.  The fare this woman got was actually reasonable, she is just emotional.

    The major carriers have offered bereavement fares that are discounted off a full fare, not a APEX fare.  However, there are hoops you have had to go through to obtain them and the carrier makes a call on their end to verify your information.  What she paid in the $400 range might have cost hundreds more with a major carrier, so she is complaining about something she is ill informed on. 

    Sadly, I recently had a bereavement situation and when I did my research for the clients, I found a last minute fare on AA for $249 from Arkansas to the SF Bay area by checking 6 airports that we use;SFO, OAK, STS, SMF, SJC, RNO.  SJC had this fare.  WN was hundreds more.  The OP could have used a ticketing travel agency to handle the research while she packed and got ready.  It would have saved her time, emotional outbursts, a letter to Chris and what seems to be the most important issue to her, possibly money.

  • Carver

    Except of course that why you are is the biggest component in the cost of your ticket.  The travel industry analyses travel patterns and charges based upon whether it believes you are traveling for business or leisure.

    Airlines do it via advance fare requirements and min/max stay rules.

    Hotels due it by requiring Friday or Saturday nights to be included in a stay.

    Car Rentals do it by requiring a car be rented after noon on Thursday and returned before a certain time on Mon/Tuesday depending on the rental.

    All of this is to determine why you fly and charge you according.

  • Michael K

    1) It takes some serious lack of perspective to compare a last minute business meeting or vacation with a funeral.

    2) Think about it: why are last minute fares so high for air travel, even relative to other modes of transportation with limited supply (e.g. bus, ship, car rental)?  

    Why have airlines played the fare games they do with Saturday night stays and bans on overlapping itineraries and unused return tickets?  The reason is precisely because the airline wants to extract higher fares from business travelers (who they presume are far less price sensitive).  

    In that context, bereavement fares make perfect sense as a means to offset an unintended consequence of airline policies that purposely discriminate against business travelers.

    The airlines have no obligation to offer bereavement fares.  Maybe they’ve decided that it’s too hard or too costly to defend against fraudulent claims.  That doesn’t change the fact that airline pricing is as complicated as it is because it fundamentally DOES make a difference (to the airline) what your circumstances are.

  • Carver

    I think you are misunderstanding Donna’s post.  Like you, I am self-employed and often pay last minute walk up rates when traveling.  However, those are merely a cost of doing business that I accepted with my eyes wide open and have planned for accordingly.

    Last minute fares are designed for business travelers like you and I.  Leisure fares are designed for the OP.  The unfairness is that system assumptions, i.e. business travelers travel last minute and need more flexibility and leisure travelers plan in advance and will sacrifice flexibility for a cheaper ticket, do not apply to bereavement situations.

    While the OP comes across as a whiny (insert favorite derogatory term) the point is valid.  A bereavement fare is part of the compassion business practices that we generally expect of good corporate citizens.

  • Carver

    During times of emergency

    Hotels often give discounts
    Cell phone carriers have credited minutes during a disaster
    Credit card companies have forgiven interest rates, etc.

    Compassion still exists.


    I seem to be continually amazed at the things people write asking for help.  Bereavement fares have gone the way of the 99-cent breakfast special at the local diner.  The fare was $441.  They weren’t gouging Ms. Kucinski based on her family tragedy – that was the going rate. 

    As others have mentioned, the funeral home and florist don’t offer discounts to people who have passed away unexpectedly.  I’m not sure why people believe that airlines are supposed to perform some sort of public service to ferry people to their loved ones’ funerals.

    As for her claim that Southwest’s customer service was lacking in empathy, I can only draw from my own experiences in telling others what they don’t want to hear.  Folks on the receiving end of bad news don’t always have their own compass calibrated perfectly, and may “hear” a lack of sympathy when sympathy may or may not exist.

    As a regular flier, Southwest consistently offers some of the best service in the industry.  As a one-off flyer, who had a personal issue that may have been affecting her mood, she may have had a different situation – but, this doesn’t make Southwest a bad company, or at all responsible for delivering her to her destination at a discount.

  • Carver


    I have to strongly disagree.  As an attorney, particularly as a litigator, you are trained to compartmentalize your emotions.  Most folks aren’t like that. 

    Yes, this is a situation where people’s emotions get the better of them.  So let’s accept reality and be more compassionate to those who who are more emotionally prone.

  • Bodega

    I think you misundestand how WN operates.  They are fair across the board, unlike other carriers that bend their rules depending on the tantrum tactics. 

  • Carver

    “Companies are not social welfare agencies.  Companies are neither
    staffed nor trained to provide social welfare benefits, nor
    should consumers expect that.  Governments tax companies to, in part,
    provide social welfare benefits.”

    I’ll remember that next time a company needs a bailout.

  • Michael K

    Let me know when restaurants, gas stations and dry cleaners charge 5x or 10x as much depending on the timing of when you purchase their products.

    Airline fares are extremely complicated precisely because they want business travelers and price-insensitive high spending travelers to pay more.  Bereaved travelers suffer as an unintended consequence of those policies.  That doesn’t mean airlines are obligated to offer bereavement fares, but it does make your comparisons very disingenous. 

  • Dennis

    Flowers. After all, you don’t need ones that stay fresh a long time.

  • Tony A.

    Carver, last minute fares are defined for last minute travelers (not just business people). Business Class fares are more appropriately labelled as such.

  • Tony A.

    Tantrum Tacticians – wonderfully said.
    Let’s welcome a whole new class of “entitled” travelers.
    Blessed are the meek….

  • SoBeSparky

    With a death of an immediate family member, one of life’s most stressful periods begins.  Judgment is altered and priorities are rearranged. 

    From the get-go, contact customer service if you find travel arrangements priced way out of whack.  Sometimes city-pairs 500 miles apart are over $600 each way.  Call or contact customer service, or the elite line of your preferred airline.   Go from there and rein in your anger, rage, stress and fears accompanying your loved one’s death.

    In this case, I agree with others, the $441 fare is not awful.  Perhaps the passenger was thinking she should ride for the lowest fare possible at the shortest notice?  That ain’t gonna happen. 

  • cowboyinbrla

    Moving 1200 miles from a parent means having to pay for airfare at the last minute if you have to rush home – a cost of living that the OP should have accepted with her eyes wide open and should have planned for accordingly.

    Sound harsh? Well… When she moved, did she think her dad was going to give her 21 days advance notice of his death so she could buy a leisure fare? Now, it might be true that the OP is only 25, and her dad only 47, so she didn’t expect to need a bereavement fare. And maybe she’s working for a homeless shelter making minimum wage. But those are just possibilities. It’s equally possible that, since her dad is in Florida, he’s retired and she “might ought” to have been making plans in case of a sudden death.

    In fact, reading Chris’s original account, I’m bothered by the statement “Compounding that tragedy was the fact that Southwest Airlines was trying to stick her with two overpriced plane tickets”… as though it were an established fact that the tickets were overpriced, and she had no other choice but to fly them. The former is questionable at best and the latter is definitely untrue.

  • Bodega

    Yes, it does and usually those companies are providing it just every so often, but an airline is doing it hundreds of times a day.  So WN set up their fares to be lower for last minute regardless of the need.  Seems pretty decent to me.

  • Paul M

    Sure the high prices of walk-up fares are expensive for such travel is usually an emergency (death of a loved one) and you are going to have to pay extra for that emergency!

  • $16635417

    The OP was simply looking for a discount, and the fare quoted was not 5x to 10x more…a little more than double than expected. When she didn’t get it, she got upset.

    This is a case of supply and demand not working in her favor. She had to have a seat that was priced at Southwest’s highest tier due to demand. She felt entitled to a discount.

    By the way, I get a cheaper rate at my dry cleaner if I bring it in on a certain day and don’t ask for it same day or within 24 hours.

    On holidays and weekends, I don’t get the same prices at my local restaurants as I would mid-week, I pay more, and I do I need to mention New years Eve, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day?

    Gas prices do go up on busy holiday weekends….when I need gas the most.

  • $16635417

    Bodega mentioned how Southwest’s fare strucure DOES appear to be a better deal in this case. As I mentioned earlier, the last minute/walkup/no penalty fare on Delta is over $700.

    It is not clear if the OP comparison shopped…or just felt entitled to a discount.

  • Tony A.

    My (old) mother-in-law used to stay with us here in Connecticut to help us raise our 3 boys. She is from a very large family in Arkansas. They are not rich and they are not poor either. They are  hard working  Nth generation Americans who have been here forever and cannot even trace their ancestry.  Their family is part of the famous Disfarmer photos of Heber Springs, AR taken about the time of the depression. You can see the collection here –

    Her brothers served in WWII and the Korean War. Not too long ago, her older brothers and sisters started dying. She had to make numerous trips to Little Rock so she could bury them. And then last year, she had to undergo hip and knee replacements. So, she had to go back to Arkansas where she had 2 daughters to take care of her. During ALL the trips she had to to make back and forth Little Rock and La Guardia or White Plains NY, I never heard her say or ask the airline for a BEREAVEMENT or COMPASSION fare. This ole lady has no income other than SOCIAL SECURITY. She has some savings and that is what she spends. It costs about $450-500 for discounted, advance purchase roundtrip tickets to Arkansas from NYC.

    Like the other TAs here, I (and my office) sell airline tickets. Most of my customers are OLD people. Many of our clients are Asians and they have to travel 10,000 miles or more to bury their dead. To help them save on airfare, we maintain very good relations with at least 2 of the largest airline ticket consolidators in the USA. Note the OP is complaining about $400 tickets. Discount (with advance purchase) travel to Asia is easily $1K more than that. Could you imagine what it will cost to depart with one day notice?

    I can relate to people who have to face the inevitable because I am nearing 60 myself and both my folks are in their mid-80’s. Guess what, PUT SOME MONEY AWAY SO YOU CAN AFFORD TO BUY A TICKET WHEN YOU NEED IT. Do not rely on airlines for charity.

    Finally, advice to young folks. It is better to find a cheap airfare now and visit your parents while they are still alive. I think those memories will be a lot better than one of a burial.

    While we all can sympathize with one who loses a parent, I cannot sympathize with anyone who demands a special fare for ANY REASON. Who is to say and determine whose needs are more important than other’s on a commercial flight?

  • $16635417

    Good advice Tony. I had enough miles in a little used Delta frequent flyer account that could be used for a free ticket. Rather than use them for fun, I kept the account active so they would be there in case of emergency. I had an aunt who died and was able to use them for a first class ticket from the east to the west coast. (I could have gone coach, but I recall the redemption difference being small and I would not have had enough left to put to good use.)

    And…by the way…I did not ask for or expect a lower redemption value because of the death.

  • Michael K

    If it was purely supply and demand, then why don’t last minute bus or ferry rates change the same way?  (Hint: because the airlines are trying to extract higher margins on business travelers, who don’t generally take buses or ferries) 

    BTW, advance purchase fares for KC to Orlando are currently available for under $100 each way (based on round trip purchase).  So it’s “only” 4.4x.  And the consensus here is that the OP got a fairly reasonable walk-up fare; it could easily have been double that amount.

    Let me know when your local gas station temporarily charges $20+/gallon on busy holiday weekends…

  • Nevermore1

    I voted no.  I know it sounds cruel but if you are flying due to a death in the family that isn’t an urgent need – the person is already dead and won’t know if you got there that day or two days later.  Yes, I know that the person flying may have to handle the arrangements but you can start all that on a phone and finish when you get there.  Unless the funeral must be held in X amount of time for religious purposes there is really no rush to get there and a day or two won’t hurt anything.  If the person is traveling because someone is extremely ill and going to die then that is a completely different case and I think that airlines should gove a slight discount for those cases if the hospital calls to book the flight (which I know they don’t do but if that service were offered then people wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the lower fares as easily).

  • Tony A.

    Carver, litigator are trained to “compartmentalize” their emotions? Well how about airline employees? Can they be stoic, too?
    Isn’t this exactly what the OP got mad about – when the SWA agent told her in a matter of fact way that they did not have Bereavement fares?

    Do people have a right to bereavement fares? So why complain.

  • Grant

    Chris… I don’t think it was right that you contacted Southwest in this case. You KNOW that Southwest knows who you are and is more likely to throw a bone to whomever you represent simply to avoid bad publicity. In this case, it worked!  Ms. Kucinski got something she didn’t deserve.  

  • Mark K

    Maybe she always flys WN and has a top tier frequent flyer relationship with them and thought that would mean something.  Maybe she has been watching the TV commercials and believed that WN always has the lowest fares for every occasion.  Maybe she had a similar situation years ago and WN was able to help her out.  We just don’t know.  Unfortunately, most people don’t think clearly in these types of situations and don’t always make what we would consider reasonable choices.

  • Cheryl

    In this case, if that was a round trip ticket, it was a good price and no you shouldn’t mediate. But for honest to goodness gouging, your help is always appreciated!

  • Bodega

    BTW, Chris, why did WN give the refund?

  • Mark K

    “Bereavement fares are all but extinct”

    Not really. 

    Just out of curiosity, I checked.  Continental, United, American, Delta, Alaska, and Hawiian all offer some type of bereavement or compassion fares (others might, but these are all that I checked).

    Continental is the only one that provided savings details.  You get from 5% to 20% off based on the price of the ticket (any class of travel and/or refundability is allowed) and you can request the refund even after you complete your travel.

    Hawaiian offers the lowest price available for that flight waiving advance purchase requirements and other restrictions. 

    Others did not provide details.

    All do require calling the airline to get the ticket.

    Other than for CO, where you can buy any ticket and then request the refund later, I don’t know if the ticket offered would be lower priced than what is generally available on their web sites.

  • Pauletteb

    The “big girl panties” bit is totally uncalled for . . . but pretty much what I’ve come to expect from your posts. Someone please check eBay and buy this woman a heart!

  • djp

    There is more to this story that I think Chris missed…..

    First off…beavement fare still exists if its proveable. I had to do thgis when my mom suddeenly died.

     By the same logic if you were planning on visiting and something happened so you need to move up the dates you can and the airlines if you talk to the right person will all you to change without fees and give a fair airfare rate.

    second…southwest pricing model works very differently from other airlines.  Southwest changes fares not based on space, but ontiming.   Booking a ticket 6 days or less generally pushes you into the higher fare class.  So for last second travel you need to look into other airlines airfares to find cheaper airfare.

    With Southwest, as other carriers you need to contact customer serve reps usually in the headquarters area who are reach on non 800 numbers. 

    With Southwest I have collected a few customer service reps direct numbers who I will call if therre are problems to get around the system.

    For example,  I was traveling at the end of september and wanted to move my flight up.  Southwest does not do standby.  If I try to change my flight at the gate it gives me the full price rate even if online is cheaper (it has everything to do with their system)   I can purchase this online/  The difference in fare was reasonable (around $30) but I couldnt even do it online so I had to call one of the reps I knew to get it fixed and was able to do it.

  • Tony A.

    I agree. Chris should really choose his stories a little better. I’d rather read the ones about how his kids are enjoying their road trip than this one. IMO, this post has nothing to do with fairness or trying to right a wrong It’s about a spoiled brat wanting it her way all the time.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Thanks for the feedback. Would either of you like to guest edit my blog for a week? You’d get to pick the topics for a few days. Think about it.

  • Bodega

    Why did they give her money back?

  • Christopher Elliott

    I have no idea.

  • ChrisY

    I think it would be insightful, at least for a couple days! :)

  • Tony A.

    I believe this story if full of holes. Suppose I put myself in the shoes of the OP and I needed to fly out today from MKC to ORL. What to do?

    My GDS tells me that I can book a Delta ticket that leaves today at 6PM (not its 345PM as I write this) one-way for $210.40. If my parent died suddenly, I would not bother to book the return flight because I have no idea how much time I’m needed to do the burial and estate arrangements.

    Here’s what I found:
     1 DL1007K 14NOV MO MCIATL   612P  914P/O $ J02 E 2 DL1769K 14NOV MO ATLMCO  1057P 1220A#1/X $ J02 E* NONREF/PENALTY/APPLIES * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT DL ** 14NOV DEPARTURE DATE/ 14NOV IS LAST DATE TO TICKET   TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD   TKT TTL USD ADT01       175.81                    34.59            210.40*TTL         175.81                     34.59            210.40  *AS BOOKED   LOWEST FARE ALREADY BOOKED IN THIS COMPARTMENT FBC ADT KA00A0NA 

    So why insist on Southwest when there MIGHT be other cheaper options?
    Maybe the cheap seats with Southwest have sold out.
    C’mon lady use a little common sense. Or let your spouse, son/daughter, friend  do it if they are not as distraught as you are.

  • Tony A.

    oh my goodness, it is garbled. Let me try again.


  • S E Tammela

    Unfortunately 400 is the NORMAL fare. It’s not cranked up to make a profit from your dad’s death.

    They discount the tickets bought early. They do this to encourage people to book early, and so they know how full the plane will be, which
    routes need more flights etc.

    I’m truly very sorry for your loss, but you weren’t being scammed here.
    The ticket price was worth what they wanted to charge you, namely, the price of buying last-minute.

    And if you happen to be an executer of his estate, you will find this one ranks nowhere compared with the headaches you will likely have to face in getting things sorted out with various companies and government departments :(

  • gromit82

    I voted “no” to mediation because there was nothing to mediate here.

    Southwest doesn’t offer bereavement fares. If the customer had called an airline, been promised a bereavement fare, but wound up getting charged full price, that would be something to mediate. But that’s not what happened here.

    Southwest could have been kinder to the customer, but I don’t think that’s mediateable either.

  • Tony A.

    Chris, I suggest that you have a few TA-like people here to volunteer  pre-screen / analyze some of the so-called airline complaints first then give you the OTHER side of the coin before you shoot the airline.

    I think there are 3 of us here who are willing to do it.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m a guy, loser. Anyone who has been on this site any amount of time knows that.

    Also…I don’t need a heart for this case. It’s cut and dry. If she didn’t like SWA’s fare, instead of whining like a little girl, she could’ve tried another airline. It’s called capitalism.

    Course, I guarantee they would’ve been higher, so out comes the crybaby and “southwest is heartless!!!” nonsense.

  • Tony A.

    Carver, the airlines actually got a bailout. Remember they got millions right after 9/11? Even the profitable ones got a handout.
    Also, many US Airlines have been helped through the Bankruptcy process.
    But none of what I just said justifies the demand of the OP for a bereavement fare.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Prescreen the stories? I don’t know, that would result in fair and balanced posts. What kind of fun would that be? ;-)


    I am going to guess that Southwest is one of the few (if not the only) carriers that flies non-stop MCI-MCO.  It is quite possible that she wanted to get there as quickly as possible and would choose not to book a connecting flight.  Of all of the things wrong with Ms. Kucinski’s complaint, I don’t begrudge her wanting to take a non-stop (or at least direct) flight.

  • SallyLu

    How do you know she moved away from her parents?  Perhaps her parents decided to retire in FL, and moved away from her?  I do agree with your last paragraph, but I think it is wrong to assume that just because parents and children live in different areas, it must have been the child who moved away, and therefore should have planned for this moment from the time she made the decision to leave.

  • Joe Farrell

    Carver – just because someone is ’emotionally prone’ does not mean that they become entitled to something the rest of us cannot get-  its like “I’m elderly on a fixed income” whining or “I graduated from college and I’m entitled to a good paying job” we hear from the Occupy idiots. 

    Do I have compassion for her loss of a parent?  Absolutely – its a tough time.

    Do I have compassion because she had to pay $441 for an airlinie ticket?  Absolutely not. 

    She paid $441 because she was in panic mode and refused to sit down for 30 minutes and take stock of what was available – She clearly had the ability to make a 15 min phone call – what with the whining and complaining she did – to look at a computer to see what was available – if she didn’t – then she didn’t.   End of story.  What did she do for the rest of the time waiting for the flight to leave?  Sit around on the phone calling relatives and friends?

    My FIL ‘died’ one morning when the hospital actually made a ‘mistake’ and called my MIL and told her that he was ‘no longer with them.’  what they meant was that they had transferred him to ICU. Poor choice of words to a 76 year old woman who has failing memory and is easily confused.  She called everyone in the family and told them that John had died.  He was not dead. 

    Try that one on for size.  He died the next day – my wife was literally through security at the airport enroute to her parent’s home in Iowa when I get the phone call that John was not yet deceased.   Good thing she was not on the plane heading out yet – but you can see the problem with assumptions and making zero effort to understand what is being said.

  • Carver

    The juxtaposition was attorneys like Joe v. the general public, not flight attendants.  Also, compartmentalizing one’s emotions, in this case, means an ability to operate while under emotional stress.  Many people simply cannot.

  • Tony A.

    Do you really think this woman and your post is fair to Southwest?
    Both their website and their employees state that Southwest does not offer Bereavement Fares, so why INSIST that they should? They don’t have a monopoly between Kansas City and Orlando. Go find an airline that does have so-called “COMPASSION” fares. But don’t lambast SWA for not having one because just like any business, they are free not to have one. I think compassion is voluntary.

  • Carver


    You are making assumptions. I never said that someone is ENTITLED.  I said repeatedly that it’s the compassionate thing to do.  Reread my posts.  Your posts relates to the fact that the OP didn’t check other airlines.  You use of teminology such as “couldn’t be bothered”,”pay for the pleasure”,  and “made the decision”  attempts to paint the OP as an entitled person who was in full control of her actions and decisions.

    I find that assumption to be unlikely.

    I find it equally likely that she, believing the SW hype of being the cheapest airline, contacted them, and being in grief, had no further mental energy to comparison shop.

    And as litigator, you know why we don’t present anecdotes.  Your situation may be different than someone else’s

    My friend’s wife recently died.  His was a complete basket case.  His best friends each took time off from work to take care of the various items.  He is not an entitled person by any means, but he was definitely in no frame of mind to comparion shop.

  • Carver

    That’s how you see it.  Not everyone sees it that way.

  • Carver


    You are making a strawman argument.  I responded specifically to LTMG post, even quoting it so as not to perfectly clear.

  • cowboyinbrla

    I don’t know that it makes a difference — presumably, at some point they lived in the same place, being a family, and now they don’t. That should have been a clue that at some point, visits long-distance might be necessary, and when death comes – which most of us can reasonably expect – that trip may need to be made quickly.

    Perhaps she thought bereavement fares still exist. If so, this reminds me of the people who show up half an hour before departure and then loudly complain that they can’t check their bags, get through security, and board the plane just like they did back in 1987 when they flew to Memphis to see Graceland. Bereavement fares don’t exist, haven’t in a long time, the walk-up fare was certainly not unreasonable (walkups on the other airlines I checked are considerably higher).

    What the flyer wants, ultimately, seems to be to turn the clock back to 1978 when bereavement fares were regulated. What she doesn’t realize is that in adjusted-for-inflation terms, without deregulation, that flight would have cost her more like $1500.

  • Carver

    I agree about not purchasing a return ticket, but I can see where someone might have a limited amount of time off and simply not have the option

  • Bodega

    No, today, most people think they are entitled to something.  Chris would better serve us if he found out WHY she got a refund and added it to his article so those in the same situation know what they should or should not be getting.  If she was wronged, shouldn’t we know so we can get the same type of refund if we book WN for a bereavement reason?

    There is more to this and that seems to be a common thread on this webiste.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Why, exactly, “should” every price be available to the agent on the phone?

    Airlines have made it clear that they prefer customers to book their own flights online on their own website. To that end, they sometimes charge a fee for reservations taken over the phone, and sometimes offer web-only specials designed to get you to look and book online. If you can get the same results by calling, many people would never switch over to online – which is the primary way they want bookings to go.

  • Bodega

    But why, when you can write a letter to Chris and get something for it?

  • Tony A.

    Carver, you made the point exactly. If the OP let her friends do the shopping for her (since she may have been too distraught), then they, too, would have discovered that Southwest does not have Bereavement Fares. Their next logical step will be to shop around. That’s what the internet is for, right? I highly doubt any of her rational friends would have written to Elliott and bitched about not getting a discount. There is no airline monopoly between Kansas City and Orlando. You are free to choose from a number of airlines. Go figure which ones have COMPASSION.

  • Christopher Elliott

    That’s a common complaint on Monday’s “Can this trip be saved?” feature. Readers think it’s a complete story, but it’s actually a case (often incomplete) that I’m considering mediating. For the whole story, see Friday’s Travel Troubleshooter column.

  • Tony A.

    Yup, so does the 80% who said NO. I’m glad we still live in a country where compassion is voluntary (sarcasm).

  • Bodega

    I am sorry, I don’t understand what you are telling me to see.  What story? 

  • Bodega

    I don’t understand the refund at all.  They don’t offer bereavement fares.  So what did she get a refund for?  We deserve to know.

  • Bodega

    Then could you find out and let us know? 

  • $16635417

    Wow…look at oil profits and compare them to airline profits. Tell me who’s gouging who. Oil doesn’t need to go to up $20/gal. they’re sticking it to us as it is.

    Ever hear of the Southwest effect? If they weren’t in the market, Delta and other legacies would be charging her $700 one way.

  • Tony A.

    True about the nonstop flight between MCI-MCO.
    That said, expect to pay more since demand for non-stops should be more than connecting flights.
    I don’t begrudge Southwest either for not having Bereavement fares since their fares are pretty low already.
    For what it’s worth the discussion of Bereavement fares is MOOT. Why?
    Because ALL major airlines offer the same $400~ same day fare just like WN. Bereavement fares even if one-half off Y fares would cost still be more than $400 also. This is a crazy discussion since we are arguing about fares that we have NO CLUE WHAT THEY ACTUALLY COST.
    At least we should make a price comparison with same day fares VS Bereavement fares.

  • Tony A.

    Carver, they bought a $188 ticket on the return leg. That’s not likely a WN same-day fare. Obviously they had enough time to wait to buy the return ticket.

  • Tony A.

    It’s shutup money. What else?

  • Tony A.

    Correction, the $188 only applies if you buy it from the WEB.
    Otherwise, it’s $400~ if you walk to a counter.
    So that means for the return flight the OP learned to use the internet.
    Wow what a miracle.

  • Tony A.

    Mark K – this is an excellent post! Thanks for taking the time to go to each airline site and doing the research on COMPASSION fares. But as you correctly described it, the airlines do not PUBLISH their “compassionate” fares. It a secret compassion (because they can’t be proud how expensive it is). They will divulge it IF you call them. Yeah right!

    Anyway, I have read from some articles that it is maximum 50% off normal Y fares. (Continental actually publishes their formula, others don’t.)

    So here we are reading an article about Southwest being heartless when we have no clue if their non-compassionate fare is less, equal or more than the so-called compassionate fares of other airlines.

    If what I read is true about compassionate fares being 1/2 of Y fares, then they can be more expensive than walk-up fares for Kansas to Orlando. So Southwest might not be heartless at all.  

  • Bodega

    Makes me disappointed in WN and in Chris.

  • Tony A.

    It’s too hard to use the INTERNET.

  • Robert

    Someone check eBay and buy this person a brain!

  • Themayor23

    I didn’t see the part where someone was holding a gun to her head.  I must have missed that part.
    In the “old” days, everyone would pile in the car and do a road trip.  Now, because we are so busy with our life, we jump on the first plane.
    Did she shop other airlines?
    Sorry, no sympathy here, other than over the loss of her loved one.

  • Ann Lamoy

    I moved 3,000 miles across the country from my folks over ten years ago. I flew back to visit them once a year (due to the fact that it was impossible for my Mom to fly due to ill health) and saved up my frequent flyer miles. So when my Sister called me at the end of March 2010 to tell me that Dad was in the hospital and the Doctors said I needed to come home I immediately booked a ticket home with my frequent flyer miles. Honestly, it never once occurred to me to try and obtain a bereavement fare. I also never considered calling Delta and seeing if they would move my already booked tickets for my May trip up without having to pay any change fees. I just wanted to make sure I got home in time to say goodbye to my Dad.

    I didn’t have enough miles to book a fare when Mom passed away in February of this year so I had to go online to book the quickest fare home. I ended up flying out a day later but my Sister understood because it saved me over $300. As she put it, it wasn’t like Mom was going anywhere.

    While I do feel for the OP, and understand her grief, it seems like she was so focused on the bereavement fare that she never considered any other option. Including the one suggested by the SW person who told her bereavement fares weren’t offered. To look on the web. Where several people have already said that web-only fares were considerably lower than the fares she ended up paying. Less than half in fact. So I would be willing to bet that she could have gotten a similar fee that day as well.

    And she speaks of a “we” in this so it wasn’t just her flying. So unless the other person was a young child, the second person could have gone on line for her to check out the website to see what fares were offered.

  • Tony A.

    Ann, according to the article, they paid $188 for the return trip. That’s a web only fare so someone finally had a brilliant idea to go online and  buy Southwest’s  cheaper fare from the website. That’s exactly what the “heartless” agent told them to do in the first place.

  • Guest

    Many people simply cannot.

    Indeed. Unfortunately you can also see what happens if one simply “cannot” and (unnecessarily?) create issues like these, especially if it’s something they can actually do something about and avoid to begin with.

    No one’s asking for perfection or similar, of course. Just that, again, options did/do exist for one to try and…maybe…save themselves some unnecessary trouble. *shrug*

  • Guest

    Most likely by choice. Of course, that could create further unintended consequences like others bugging Chris to similarly bug (airline) about it.

  • Sershev

    Continental offers bereavement fares. Also depending on a market you can find last minutes fares for less than $200 each way going coast to coast. Even if there is no access to the internet there are smartphone Apps to do a quick search or call one of your friends or family member and ask search a few websites for you. Southwest never offers cheap last minute fares.

  • Carver

    Normally I would agree with you.  But I have to cut the OP some slack as a family member of the first degree just died.

  • Carver

    Hindsight = 20/20

  • Carver

    “Chris would serve us better….”

    I was unaware that Chris was on our payroll.

    But seriously…The burden on Chris is ridiculously high.  He has to be an attorney, accountant, travel agent, as well as advocate/ombudman.  That’s a lot of hats for one person to wear.

  • Asiansm Dan

    It happens lot of times that I found better United fare on website like Expedia or Travelocity, etc…than on United website itself even all the trip is on United. It can explain by the performance of which search engine of the reservation system we use and the database of the fare this system can access. Big consolidator like Expedia and Travelocity have good agreement about fare with Airline. 95% of times I find better price of Air Canada fare on Expedia and Travelocity than on Air Canada website itself.
    Don’t bother about the UA Agent by the phone, there are no longer expert like the reservation agent as in the good old times, they all retired or out of job because United want to hire new agent with minimum salary. The new reservation agent performance is evaluated by the average time they spent with you per call so they are not motivated to try to find the best fare. They tend to said, that’s it, you want it or not, by knowing there is a big chance you take it.

  • Carver

    I’m glad we live in a country where dissent is still respected, (at least by most).

  • Carver

    That brings up a good point.  At what point is it appropriate to lambast a business because of its otherwise legal corporate policies?

  • Guest

    That’s fine. I think you’ll also find that many people here just don’t sympathize with the OP’s arguably emotional response after, yet they do sympathize with her father’s passing still.

  • Carver

    Out of curiosity.  Do we know for a fact that the abuse of bereavement fares costs the airlines a lot of money?

    I tried to use one once or twice and decided against.

    I had to

    1.  Disclose the name of the mortuary before buying the ticket
    2.  They called the funeral home to verify
    3.  I has to bring a copy of the death certificate for the return trip
    4.  And the price was half of the walkup rate.


  • Guest

    If the airlines said yes, will people believe that anyway?

    Just a rhetorical question, of course. :)

  • flutiefan

    Clare, she was on the phone, she wasn’t “standing right in front of her”. also my roomie worked for SWA, and they DO NOT have the internet at the airport computers (or at reservations call centers), and their agents are instructed NOT to book customers using

    the rep advised her to go online, but i guess typing 14 characters was too much for her ( however, pushing 10+ buttons on the phone made sense.

  • Guest

    Probably when it has the capacity to cause demonstrable, material harm? *knock on wood*

  • flutiefan

    they do online.

  • flutiefan

    i voted NO, for all the reasons posted before me, and more.  
    what, it was too difficult for her to type in 14 characters on browser address bar (, but she could dial 10+ numbers on her phone, then listen to the phone tree messages before being connected with an agent? that makes no sense.   even when the rep explained that lower fares are available on the website, she refused? i thought it was a well-known fact that the web-only fares advertised on tv and radio are able to be booked on THE WEB. ONLY.
    (and isn’t it funny that her return fare was an internet-only one?)
    as for her feeling that the res was not empathetic or heartless, i have an inkling that was more due to her emotional state than the actual behavior of the rep.  i can’t tell you how many times, when i am standing at the ticket counter and a passenger is giving me their sob story or incredibly tragic circumstances, i have said how sorry i was for them and apologized, and then i was met with accusations of lying or being sarcastic. i have genuine sympathy, and i’m being met with hostility and skepticism. that reflects more on the passenger than it does on me. it is their perception, because (as in this case) they are not getting the answer they want, or they need someone to lash out at.SWA probably gave the partial refund because of Chris’ name. period. not cool, WN. stick to your guns.

  • Bodega

    It is what it is.  The OP was a whiner and got Daddy Chris to handle the meanies for absolutely NO reason  Cowgirl up honey!

  • Tony A.

    Do we know for a fact that the abuse of bereavement fares costs the airlines a lot of money? – why should this matter in a free market capitalist system? For as long as there is free market competition among airlines flying between MCI and ORL, then all’s fine. Airlines are not stupid. They know whether it makes sound business sense to offer bereavement fares or not. With healthy competition the fares will be low enough that we would not even need bereavement fares.

  • Tony A.

    I wonder if the OP and her companion had an iPhone or smartphone, or iPad or laptop with wifi or 3G. I suppose one can use one to book cheaper online fares while they were in the airport.

  • Joe Farrell

    Hey – I’m just a random guy here -but honestly – using would have located the best fare in about 22 seconds – you then can go to Southwest and whatever other airline websites would get you there –

    Who knows – maybe she’d get lucky and it would be her day for Allegiant to be operating a trip from Wichita to Orlando and it would cost $39 . . . plus $100 in fees.  Which she’d probably have complained about as well. 

  • Carver

    Why does it matter?  The fact that it matters to me is a sufficient reason to ask the question.  But if we must….

    First, any statement which purports to be a factual statement is subject to validation, just on general principle.

    Second, it allows me to better judge the type of entity that I am doing business with, or not doing business with.  I strongly prefer to do business with companies which are aligned with my personal worldview, which I would call compassionate capitalism.

    An airline is perfectly free to offer whatever fares it chooses for whatever reason its chooses, but I am equally free to spend my money elsewhere.

  • Bob

    One important thing I believe no one has mentioned yet: The salesman at the Southwest ticket counter HAS NO ABILITY TO CHANGE FARES! There is no physically possible way that the salesman, whether at the airport ticket counter or over the phone, can manually adjust any fare (the only way to change them is to change booking codes, but that’s only possible if the fare rules allow it, which they wouldn’t have in this case, because it’s a ticket without advance purchase). Airline reservation systems don’t work that way, and for good reason. If the fare came up as $441, then the fare was $441. Again, the agent isn’t PHYSICALLY able to, say, take $100 off the cost of the ticket. So the point being, what exactly did the OP expect the Southwest agent to do in this case?

  • y_p_w

    Yeah – that was what I was thinking.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that in someone’s grief, a rather sympathetic “Sorry – I’d like to help but I don’t have the authority to lower the fare, and neither does my supervisor” was interpreted as “we can’t do anything”.

  • y_p_w

    I do remember researching a former employer’s bereavement policy when a relative died.  I actually had up to 5 days paid leave from my employer.  However, my manager knew me and if I’d have pulled a fast one on him going on vacation instead of a relative’s funeral he would have eventually found out.

    Now the airlines didn’t have such a policy.  However, a relative who travelled with me to the funeral was a travel agent and managed to use travel agent tricks like getting quarter fare for the ride back – in first class no less.  So we’re flying back from the funeral eating caviar and megabuck Champagne.  The dinner was lousy though.

  • Patsy

    For the same reason you can plan bereavement fares in advance too. Not everyone dies unexpectedly

  • Carver

    I wonder.

    I was at American Airlines and for a variety of reasons the system didn’t show my ticket.  The ticket agent was able to work her magic and issue a completely new ticket at the old ticket price.  It took her 15 minutes but she got it done.

    Perhaps one of the TAs could explain how she did it.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I agree. This OP seems like the type to whine to some “investigative reporter” on the 6 o’clock news about how SWA “profited from her father’s death.” Because, dontcha know, the world is supposed to bend over and kiss her rear because she’s in an unfortunate situation. 

    It’s total hush money. 

  • GDP

    I’m sure this has been mentioned before, but I’ll make my comment anyway.  Airlines could easily regain face by offering bereavement rates after the fact.  If someone needs to make the emergency flight, they can pay the standard walk-up price.  After their affairs have been settled, the airline can look at the proper documentation (i.e. certified documentation), and then offer an appropriate cash refund as a generous gesture.  By doing this after the fact, the airlines can protect themselves from passengers flying for “Aunt Millie’s” funeral (who is still quite alive) while still offering help to actual grieving families.

  • Mark K

    Continental does that now.  You buy your ticket – any fare any class even the lowest internet fare available – and call them later when you have all the necessary paperwork or information required and they refund up to 20% of what you paid based on total cost (that’s a refund, not a voucher).  Sounds like a good deal to me.  Unfortunately, due to their merger with United I doubt this level of compassion will continue.

  • Steve R

    I say there’s no reason to mediate cases where someone is upset that they’re not being offered a bereavement fare. (Cases in which there is a dispute over what the airline offered, of course, are still worth mediating). I’m sorry for the OP’s loss, but there’s no reason why an airline should be required to treat a last-minute purchase due to a death any different from a last-minute purchase due to an important meeting or a last-minute vacation.

    I would be more inclined to side with the OP if Southwest had treated her rudely, but I’m not at all sure that’s what happened. As others have said, it’s quite possible that in her emotional state she interpreted a polite, matter-of-fact statement that SW doesn’t offer bereavement fares as rude.

  • Douglas

    When my own father passed away in April, 2000, the USAir agent kept me on the line while she called the hospital in Port Chester, NY, to confirm the death with the emergency room. The bereavement fare I got was actually the regular 14-day advance purchase fare without the advance purchase requirement, sold on the spot, for travel the next morning. I thought that was a perfectly fair way of handling it, the airline protecting itself from a possibly bogus claim, at the same time offering a very equitable concession in view of the sad event. I don’t know what USAir is doing now, and I’m not looking forward to another death in the family to find out. But if I were an airline, I certainly wouldn’t accept a claim based on a name found in the obituary column of any newspaper.

  • Michael K

    FYI: Your local gas station probably makes less profit than airlines.  The fuel itself is often a slight loss-leader for the snack-marts which generate all the real profit.

    FYI 2: Southwest effect is overrated.  They don’t fly to my market and I get better fares than Kansas City.  The real issue is competition or lack thereof.

  • Steve

    You have heartless readers…

  • bc

    Pauletteb, while searching eBay, buy yourself some common sense. 

    I agree the OP was a whiner and is obviously upset under the circumstances. They are angry and SW is a good scapegoat to take out that anger. I would think with the death of a parent, the Jennifer would have more pressing issues than whining about the cost of the plane ticket to attend her father’s funeral. 

  • bc

    Raven, I don’t always like your comments but I do like this one! 

  • Rich

    I’m thinking that the grief she was feeling was only exacerbated by the “last minute” pressure to get to Orlando.  Hence, her perception was perhaps skewed.  It’s east to see, through her eyes at the time, now she thought she might have been “stuck with” overpriced tickets. 
    When airlines used to offer berevement fares, the cost was often computed by taking the full one-way “Y” fare and discount it 50%; in essence allowing a round-trip for the cost of a full one-way “Y” coach fare.
    WN is the only carrier flying nonstop between those two points.  Let’s take a look at the fares currently at full one-way “Y” for some of the other carriers in the market…
    CO = 1453.00
    UA = 1453.00
    DL = 1423.00
    US = 1333.00
    AA = 1346.00
    Had they offered berevement fares, USAirways would have come through as the “winner” here allowing a round-trip for the “one-way full Y” fare of $1333.00.
    Frankly, she did fairly well BEFORE they elected to kick back some of the cost of her ticket.

  • IGoEverywhere

    This was not your problem to begin with. A simple call to an ASTA travel agent will tell you what fares are out there. The Kansas City Orlando market is not only Southwest. They were sold out of cheap  seats that day, but other airlines probably were available. That’s where one call to an agent could have saved possibly 100’s of dollars. Southwest was dead wrong on offering the refund! I just checked on USAir and found 134.00 today through Charlotte. Southwest has done a great job on making the public believe that it is the cheap – go to airline.

  • Patrick

    Put some perspective onto this situation.  Dad is dead.  It makes absolutely no difference to the dead person.  This is an emotional response by the Kucinski.  Should SWA pay for her emotional problem?  No.

  • Bodega

    He is not a travel agent and has even admitted to not knowing the business.

    He puts out an article where he says it was resolved, but doesn’t say why it was resolved.  He isn’t on ‘our payroll’ but he gets paid because he has readers.  He owns them something more when a result takes place based on his intervention.

    My guess on this is that the online fare was less than the over the phone fare and hence the refunded amount.  But, seriously, how hard would it be for this to be checked into with the person he spoke to at WN and relayed to the readers? 

  • Bodega

    After thinking on this, I am guessing the webfare at the time she booked over the phone was less and they just gave her the difference.  But it would be nice to know this.

  • Tony A.

    Which one could they not see – your e-ticket or your reservation?
    These are 2 different entities.

    If you showed up to check-in at a counter, the agent will look at their Departure Control System (DCS) and should find your name in the list. That passenger name list is usually downloaded from the airline’s reservation system (RES) about 24 hours prior the flight’s departure.

    But the agent also checks whether you have an open (unused)  e-ticket (coupon) for that flight (and hopefully you are taking the flights in their proper order). The airlines maintain an e-ticket database and the status of the e-ticket coupons are updated as they are used.

    The agent can always ADD your name to the list.
    But if they can’t find an open coupon (eticket) then you have no proof you paid, so they won’t let you fly. Not unless you give them a credit card and pay at the counter.

  • Bogus

    I was talking to a friend who works in customer service for an airline about this and she asked me: “Did the Dr who helped at the end of this person’s life or the Funeral Home give a discount because there was a death (or impending death) in the family?” It sounds heartless but it’s a good question. These are services and there is a cost to do something last minute be it a trip to the emergency room or a flight. 

  • Tony A.

    Exactly Rich. The OP was insistent on arguing about the existence of BEREAVEMENT fares instead of computing and comparing what it would actually cost her. For some reason they think bereavement fares are cheap. But as you know they are wrong.

    If they walk up to an airline counter, they can buy the cheapest *available* FARE BASIS for a flight that day. It does not necessarily mean it is a Y class fare.

    But bereavement fares are designed to give the survivor the FLEXIBILITY of an UNRESTRICTED FARE. And usually, that means a Y class fare.

    Let’s take Delta for example. Here are the one-way fares for departure TODAY 15NOV:

     1  KA00A0NA    194.00   K
     2  QA00A0UJ    229.00   Q
     3  HA00A0OJ    293.00   H
     4  HA00A0OJ    362.00   HPI
     5  MA00A0VA   441.00   PMD
    8  BA00A0OJ    604.00  BPD
    14  Y0             759.00   Y 
    15  F0             895.00   FYC
    16  YUP           895.00   YPC
    17  Y             1423.00   Y 
    18  C             1565.00   YCJ
    19  F             1864.00   FYC

    If a flight has available K class seats then you can have it for $194 plus tax. Here’s one with 2 K class seats available:

    1*S#DL4688  K2   MCIMEM  445P 611P  *8 CRJ 0E
    2*S#DL2199  K2   MEMMCO  748P1050P   7 M80 0E
    The ticket will cost $210.90 with tax included.
     TX 13.53US 7.40ZP 5.00AY 4.50XF

    But the OP probably wanted the non-stop flight which only Southwest offered. Well, that would cost $440~ when purchased from the counter and only $188 if bought ONLINE (web only).

    If she CALLED Delta. she may have been offered a bereavement fare of 50% off Y class. Note there is a cheaper Y0 fare which is also Y class. After tax, she will be paying more than $400 one-way. That’s double what she would pay had she simply walked up to the Delta counter.

    I am afraid to say that all those here who side with her ire towards Southwest may be using too much emotions. The fact is if she simply walked to the other airlines she could have paid half of what she paid WN. And, if she went to Southwest website, she could have got the nonstop flight for $188.

    No one is entitled to the lowest available fare if they don’t want to think and shop around. That includes grieving folks.

  • Tony A.

    Kayak could have found that, too. This type of point-to-point travel is a no brainer.

  • Linda Bator

    Amen!  I hate to belittle the client, but BOOHOO – there’s been a death in the family — so fly me for FREE!   This was NOT an outrageous sum, and if she had even compared it to the other airlines, I’m sure she’d have seen it as a deal.  Just because a company may have deep pockets doesn’t mean they have to keep letting you put your hands in them!

  • Linda Bator

    I think she’s just building up an image of bad customer service because she DIDN’T get the lower fare she hoped for.  3 seats left on the flight — she’s lucky she got to the funeral at all!

  • Linda Bator

    If you want to blame someone for a lack of bereavement fares – don’t blame the airlines, blame the customers.  I worked for years at United, and I can’t tell you how many bogus requests we got — all because someone figured they could save a buck and rip off the airline.

  • tomRI

    A name in an obit in a newspaper does not mean anything now.  In my local paper you have to pay to have your obit listed and it is always 2-3 days later. 

  • Anna

    …and the cruel, evil, heartless SWA agent even told her to check the website for a better deal. Sigh.

  • Linda Bator

    But they’r ENTITLED people!  We should all bow down to them and kiss their ###.   Forget the whiners, Chris!

  • Ajaynejr

    What would the relatives living in or near Orlando have done if you had instructed them to delay the funeral so you could shop around for better airfares?

  • Rachel

     I think that it’s more because last minute travelers are less price-sensitive (as well as supply and demand) rather than just because they are business travelers.
    Not really unintended consequences, because both (and all other?) groups who want to travel at the last minute are more price-sensitive, but business travelers are the ones that people think of first.

  • Guest

    Yup. It depends on what’s to be heartless about, though, especially if there’s no like cosmic law or agreement defining or dictating what specific behavior.

  • Bob

    I think the OP just wanted a big discount, regardless of the fare. I would be willing to bet that the OP would have been very satisfied if the situation went as follows:

    OP: Hello, I need a one way ticket for the next available flight to MCO.
    WN: Ok, let’s see…that’s going to be $600.
    OP: Oh, well actually I’m travelling for a funeral. Is there a bereavement discount available?
    WN: Actually yes there is. It’ll be $441 for a bereavement fare.
    OP: Ok great. Here’s my credit card.

  • Laurie

    Hi Chris: I know it may be hard to find, but tell people to check with a good travel agent. I just read your article and found a round-trip to Daytona Beach (not too terribly far from Orlando) departing tomorrow and returning on Sunday – rournd-trip $325.30. We do charge a fee, and if they had to check in luggage, there would be a fee from the airline. Southwest has never offered bereavement fares. Their only discount on trips departing in less than a week are Sr. citizen fares, for which you need to be 65. However, any good travel agent could have found this for them, and they would have avoided a lot of aggrivation. Sometimes you need to think “out of the BOX” and that is what an experienced agent can do for you.

  • The Good Doctor

    And those who simply cannot will pay $441 for a last-minute walk-up ticket to Orlando.  Think of it as an emotional baggage fee.

  • The Good Doctor

    Or maybe she was watching an old rerun of Seinfeld.

  • Snoopy1127

    I like the idea that you are willing to advocate for bereavement , but at the same time if you  would just educate us with the appropriate info on how to handle something like this, it might keep a very large burden off your shoulders.  Thank you.  Always willing to learn!

  • flutiefan

    i didn’t realize typing “” or “” or even “” into your browser was so time consuming…

  • Scapel

    No, because someone will start taking advantage of you.

  • DavidDINO

    Earlier this year I had to rearrange a business trip because of a death in my colleague’s family. Delta CSR explained their bereavement policy: obtain name of deceased, funeral home and phone number to obtain discount consideration. This seems very reasonable and I was grateful that even though I was not an immediate family member, Delta gave me a break on reticketing a later itinerary. 

    Hopefully others will find Delta’s policy fair and reasonable. It is nice also to recognize some dinosaur airlines are “Compassionate” instead of coldly “Heartless.”

  • DavidDINO

    Who returns to the business that has gouged them mercilessly? Why would you subject yourself or your client to excesses by airlines that take advantage of your situation when it poses no extra burden on them. They know we are desperate, so our vulnerability becomes their opportunity. 

    Not me! Gouge me once, and I’ll honor your competition hereafter.

    Airlines try to “earn” our loyalty with favorable service experiences, so it makes PERFECT BUSINESS SENSE that they offer REASONABLE discounts to passengers with special legitimate needs!! 

    Case in point: Delta recently explained their bereavement policy: obtain name of deceased, funeral home and phone number to obtain discount consideration. 

    Hopefully others will find Delta’s policy fair and reasonable. It is nice to recognize some dinosaur airlines are “Compassionate” instead of coldly “Heartless.” All airlines owe it to their customers and creditors to be REASONABLE!!!

  • Alvin dougherty

    tickets purchased 6/20/11 round trip,phl to savanah,ga for family reunion.i was hospitalized at that time with babesiois and lime desease from tick bite. delta airline would not refund or allow me to transfer my tictet to a family member,allowing me 1 year to use.i will be 82 1/8/2012 and without a family member to travel with,i dont feel comfortable traveling. 

  • Sadie Cee

    Air Canada also offers bereavement fares.  Full details are listed on their Web site – 

  • Sadie Cee

    Very well said!

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    Ooh it’s called “capitalism”, which we all know is a synonym for good and right and therefore can end any argument. Take that socialists!!

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    We still get free meals in coach and free baggage in Australia. US airlines are really bad.

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    She said “profit” but I think she meant “profiteer”.

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    The price of gas for your car, meals in a restaurant, calls on your cell phone does not change whether you plan your trip weeks in advance or for the first available departure.

  • Donna

    I had always heard that we (as the family of the bereaved) should contact the RED CROSS, though I have never done that. Does the RED CROSS offer that service? Should they? I have produced a death certificate to receive a refund as I had to cancel a plane trip and fortunately had purchased travel insurance with the ticket. Donna

  • Ragingkelly

    Over the past 10 years I have had to book flights for my husband and/or other family members to attend a funeral. In my experience bereavement fares are price gouging. I remember being quoted anywhere from 800-1200 for a round trip flight for one seat. It was much cheaper to search for regular tickets online. I think this is sad because many people especially older folks have the impression that bereavment fares are a special lower price and they do not have the means to search online for cheaper fares. 441 is not outrageous especially at the last minute and a lot cheaper the bereavement fares I have seen.

  • Cnotekc

    You have to understand that the airline has bills to pay too. And back in the day they would have people flying cheaper because they lied about bereavement fares. Im searching now for the best fare that can get me to Chicago from Kansas City… But no luck in that…