It is a sad situation that happens every day in our country, the death of a loved one. It doesn't seem like these times should have any "business dealings" involved, but they certainly do. This year, it was our family's turn to experience the heartbreak and the reality of the financial burden that this entails. Half of us live in Oregon and the other half in Maine You can't get much further apart in distance than we are, but surprisingly, we remain very close in heart. We have huge reunions every other year and this past year happened to be an off year. My grandmother and my mother still wanted to make the trip, though, and proceeded to book their flight and make their way home for a few weeks.
It was only a day before my grandmother was in the hospital, having suffered a major heart attack. After three weeks of ups and downs, she was finally released with stints in place and, as far as we knew, many years left to share with us. That night, she died of a pulmonary embolism that went to her lungs. It was obviously quite unexpected and our family was in complete chaos with everyone trying to get from point A to point B in the middle of the 2008 economic crisis.
Luckily, my husband is a pilot for one of the commercial airlines, so he was able to get standby passes for six family members, but the rest were going to have to purchase tickets on their own. When someone mentioned that they thought there was some way to fly for about half the normal ticket price on a bereavement fare, this sounded like a perfect solution to everyone. Little did we know that this was not as easy as it sounds.
I am not implying that I don't understand the necessity of the rules that are in place. I am sure that somewhere along the line there has been a person low enough to claim a family death that really never took place, but that knowledge doesn't make it any easier when you are in the midst of a crisis and just need to get home to be with your family.
First, you must understand that these bereavement rates are only for family members. You will not be able to use them for your best friend or your godparents, although I'm not sure how, or even if, they confirm the lineage of a person before issuing a ticket. However, that is the standard rule and to avoid tighter regulations in the future, we should all follow it.
All airlines are run a bit differently and will have their own set of rules on bereavement fare. The discount may also vary significantly so it is best to check around before committing to one. Maybe someone close to you would be willing to make a few calls on your behalf. Doing the necessary things may be hard enough for you, let alone throwing in a "bargain hunt".
What is pretty much standard procedure for every airline and can be difficult depending on the length of time that you have to get where you need to be and the length of time since the passing of your loved one, is the need to produce a death certificate. This is where we had trouble because no one seemed to know how we were supposed to acquire this magic piece of paper. They do require it, though and are quite rigid about having it. My grandmother's body was flying home on the same airline that we were going round about this with, so believe me, they won't work with you if you don't have it. They certainly knew she was dead, but it was the paper, not the body, that they needed to see.
Call the hospital if the death occurred there or the coroner's office and they should be able to get the death certificate for you right away. They understand how these things work and are usually very helpful and understanding. Once you have that, you are well on your way to getting your fare. Call the airline that you have selected and typically, they will have you fax a copy at which time they can send you an eticket online. Print this and take it to the airport with you so that you can skip that first line at the ticket desk and go straight through to security and your departure gate. Try to relax and get a bit of rest during your flight, knowing that you've gotten the first item of business taken care of.