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Will airlines give you a better fare if your elderly parent is having a medical emergency?

My parent had a sudden medical emergency and requires surgery tomorrow. I will go to see her in the next couple of days, and I am wondering if airlines will give a better fare (two days in advance can be very expensive) if it is a medical emergency.


Posted by
2707 posts

Too many people in the past lied, so they don't do it too often anymore. If there is a death and you provide the paperwork documenting it and your relationship, some airlines will; i.e., Jet Blue.

Posted by
1930 posts

I just spent 12 months flying to LA and Chicago on the spur of the moment for a health crisis with my mom. While every airline is different, I can tell you without hesitation that the people at Alaska are the kindest and most compassionate I've encountered. They waived change fees, moved flights out by a day when chemo didn't go well and rebanked miles when I had to move travel.

But even with all of that, I never asked them for a low fare for travel the next day or two. Not sure if they'd do anything for you. But I CAN tell you that I became an expert at buying a ticket in the evening and flying out the next morning and that on Alaska, American and United, I was able to buy a cheap seat less than 24 hours before flight time.

It must be related to trying to fill seats. My sister was able to buy a Chicago to LAX for $115 once. I flew between Seattle and LAX for 5000 miles and/or 7500 miles. Click around on their websites and see what you can find for tomorrow.

Good luck.

Posted by
5198 posts

I will agree with the response above. They will be flexible on change fees and schedule changes, but rarely on fares. If you are a higher level frequent flier in an award program, that may change things, but probably in exchange for miles.

Posted by
2452 posts

When my mother required urgent cardiac surgery I called United and (luckily) got an agent who entered my information in the system. I was still working and knew I’d be going back and forth a few times. I did not anticipate things not going well to the extent they did. My back and forth lasted 5 years until she passed away. I had to book, re-book, cancel many times. I never got a change fee or got stuck for a ticket I could not use. For all their faults, United was great to me during this ordeal. But, getting a discount for last minute travel, No, did not happen.

Posted by
6562 posts

That beats what we went through when my mother had a myocardial episode when visiting Aspen. After a week in the hospital, she had to be flown home in a Citation Jet non-stop.

Posted by
5634 posts

Even with bereavement fares (many airlines specify how to get them, usually requiring a death certificate) the fare reduction is limited. Not a
lot of help for medical emergencies except hopefully sympathetic staff. Sorry you have to go through this, with expensive flights an additional pain.

Posted by
3861 posts

Well, they have bereavement rates, so perhaps with some documentation of an illness they would be sympathetic and helpful. Bereavement rates are a bit of a savings vs. having to buy a ticket with short notice, but they still seemed pretty high. I would at least ask.

Posted by
31271 posts

I've never heard of airlines providing a discount for family-related medical emergencies, although some may certainly do that. Airlines here used to offer bereavement discounts but that was discontinued several years ago.

Posted by
1217 posts

Good thoughts to your parent for a full recovery.

Going forward, I would look into getting the co-branded credit card of your airline of choice and racking up some miles with the sign-up bonus. We live across the country from elderly parents, and went through a whole bunch of award tickets in 2018-19 to help them out while keeping out of pocket expenses reasonable for ourselves.

Posted by
143 posts

Just got back from my visit with my mother and wanted to say, I asked Delta, and they said Yes, they give 10% off with no change fees for medical emergencies. So I was happy about that!

Posted by
3458 posts

Thank you for sharing that information. It will be helpful to others in the same situation.

Hope things go well and improve for your parent.

Posted by
902 posts

In response to a reply above, do any still offer bereavement rates? Seems last time I had a need to ask, the airline (it was one of the legacy carriers, can’t recall which one) said no.