‘Compassion Fares’ for Emergency Travel Get Scarce

August 08, 2013

MSN Money

Are the airlines at all compassionate when it comes to so-called compassion fares? There was a time when carriers offered something called emergency, bereavement or compassion fares for customers in crisis — people traveling at the last minute to see a very sick or dying relative, or to be with family members after the death of a loved one.

As the website The Plane Rules notes, “while the airlines are not a social service agency, they provided this as a humane service.”

But it appears that humane connection with the public is going the way of the biplane. As the airlines come out of the recession and consolidate their business, they say it no longer makes good business sense for them to offer compassion fares. Or, when they do, they’ll make you jump through hoops to get them.

Bereavement fares reflected a different era for the industry, says Maclyn Clouse, a professor of finance at the University of Denver’s Daniel’s College of Business — a time when flights weren’t regularly filled to capacity. “If you’ve got an empty seat that can be given to someone on a bereavement basis for a 10% discount, (the airlines are) still getting 90% instead of an empty seat,” he told MSN Money.

But given the overall reduction in flights and the growing number of would-be passengers turned away from overbooked flights, Clouse says, “there’s not an inventory of unfilled seats that they can be compassionate with.”