If a family emergency arises, some airlines offer discounted fares. Be prepared to answer questions and provide information. Although there are no guarantees, you might be able to get a substantially reduced fare.
Each airline has its own policy on bereavement or compassion fares. Some airlines don't offer them. Call and ask about each airline's polices. Don't use the Internet. Call the airline, and explain what you need.
Understand that unless the emergency involves your immediate family, you probably will have trouble getting a break. Be aware that the emergency fares for deaths or grave illnesses apply only in your immediate family.
Be Persistent But Flexible
If an airline representative claims that the airline offers no emergency fares or says you don't qualify, ask to speak to a supervisor. You might not get any further, but you might. Remember to be courteous and respectful because you need a favor. You will need to be flexible. If the airline offers a discounted fare on a flight leaving at an inconvenient hour---very early morning or middle of the night---accept it and thank the airline.
Document the Situation
Be prepared to share the specifics of your emergency if the carrier agrees to consider granting you a special fare. If a family member is seriously ill, you will be expected to provide the patient's name, hospital and/or attending physician. If it is a death in the family, be prepared to give the name of the deceased and the funeral home handling the services. Don't make the call until you have gathered all the information, which includes full contact information (name, address and phone number) for all parties.
If an airline agrees to give you a discounted fare, it will probably want you to provide a copy of the death certificate before the return flight. If the emergency involves a serious illness, the airline could ask you to supply documentation from a physician or hospital.
If you can't persuade an airline to give you a discounted fare because of an emergency, check a website that specializes in cut-rate airfares, such as Priceline.com, CheapFares.com and Kayak.com.
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