Airlines offer varied or no bereavement fares

10:28 AM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Grieving family fares?

PLAINVIEW, Minn. - A heavy heart became even heavier for a Minnesota son in February who never realized the travel-related hassle he would have to go through after his mother passed away.

Nathan Eversman's mother, Mary, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Jan. 26. Her death, from an embolism, came just days before the family was to travel to Arizona for Nathan's sister's wedding on Feb. 1.

Mary Eversman was a beloved figure to hundreds, if not thousands of Minnesotans who have visited Lark Toys in Kellogg. Mary worked at the store and toy shop for many years. She was best known as the friendly and caring artist who hand-painted the unique creatures on Lark's hand-carved carousel. Children of all ages have been delighted to ride on the whimsical animals since 1997.

The family, including Mary, was to fly from Rochester, Minnesota to Mesa, Arizona on Jan. 31. Through his grief, Eversman, 32, began contacting Allegiant Airlines to move the flights of his father and Nathan's wife and two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, to a delayed wedding date. He had to cancel the original flights.

"Their cancellation fee was $50 per ticket, per segment, which equated to $600 worth of cancellation fees just to transfer to another date and also, they would not refund to a credit card. It would have to be a travel voucher (on Allegiant)," said Eversman. "When I inquired about at least, waiving the $100 worth of cancellation fees for my Mom's ticket, who had passed away, they refused that as well."

An Allegiant Airlines Spokesperson confirmed that the airline, which is a low-fare carrier, does not have bereavement fares. They do offer trip insurance at the time of ticket purchase to cover unforeseen circumstances. Eversman admits he did not purchase the insurance.

"You know, I just think there is a decency that has been lost," said Eversman. "I feel like the company can have whatever policy they want, but I mean in terms of dealing with humans and what happens ... It is not like we were just trying to get a different trip. I just felt like it was kind of unfair."

A KARE 11 check of airline's bereavement policies found that they vary greatly. Allegiant, which flies out of Rochester and St. Cloud in Minnesota, offers no bereavement discounts for family members.

Likewise, Spirit Air, which has service from the Twin Cities, has no bereavement discounts. Both airlines are advertised as low-cost carriers. Fliers who choose the most basic flights received lower fares, but pay fees for other services such as baggage and food.

Spirit Air, unlike Allegiant in the Eversman's case, will refund cancelled fares to a credit card.

United Airlines offers a 5 percent discount for grieving family members. American Airlines has "compassion" fares. According to  spokesman Matt Miller, they usually offer 25 percent of the full economy-class fare. Delta appeared to have the easiest to locate policy on their website. The criteria of "immediate family" even included aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. However the discount is unspecified and depends on availability of flights and other factors.

Sun Country and U.S. Airways did not respond to our requests for information about their policies.

All of the airlines with bereavement policies expect some kind of proof of the deceased loved one. Since a death certificates would normally not be available as yet, some contact with a funeral home or a doctor may suffice.

Airlines with such discounts often require that reservations were made through their own website.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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