American Airlines (AAL) has ended its bereavement fares, the discount offered to people who needed to fly immediately because of a loved one's death. That cold, callous, corporate decision -- which now aligns American's policy with that of its heartless merger partner, US Airways -- has unleashed the predictable gnashing of social media teeth.
But it's not worth shedding a single tear for bereavement fares. Anyone shopping carefully -- a group that might not include mourners -- already knows that the "break" airlines offered the bereaved have been, at best, pathetic.
A bereavement fare is typically just a small discount off the cost of a last-minute purchase, which are nearly always exorbitant.
Such paltry discounts mean little, especially when you're not debating whether to make the trip and just need a ticket procured quickly. "Five percent off a $900 fare isn't going to make that big of a difference to someone in an emotionally chaotic state," Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com, told the Los Angeles Times. Exactly.
I have a better idea: Go to the Internet. Many sites specialize in last-minute travel deals or fare bidding, such as Priceline (PCLN). If that's too much work at a fraught time, a travel agent can quickly handle the same chore. And one-way flights may make more sense, offering additional flexibility with an expensive purchase.
A bereavement discount is, as much as anything, a meaningless marketing gesture that does little to help distraught travelers. To truly help those who just lost a loved one and are facing an enormous airfare, let's lobby for flat funeral pricing of, say, $200 to $700, depending on distance. Maybe the discounts could be subsidized by all those $200 ticket-change fees? That would be far more comforting -- for every air traveler.