Cranky on the Web (February 24 – 28)

American, Fares, Miscellaneous

In the Trenches: Team vs. Individual Customer ServiceIntuit Small Business Blog
At Cranky Concierge, we’ve long used our team to help people as opposed to the individualized service method. I’ve been thinking about that lately.

American Eliminates Bereavement Fares, But Seriously You Shouldn’t CareConde Nast Daily Traveler
American has killed off bereavement fares. I’ve seen some people say that this is terrible, but they had extremely limited utility in the first place anyway.

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2 comments on “Cranky on the Web (February 24 – 28)

  1. I vehemently disagree with your characterization of bereavement fares. Unfortunately, I’ve made use of bereavement fares for myself and my family twice in the last 13 months (for a total 8 round trip tickets) and few more times over the last 10 years. Although we could have flown Spirit for less (not all that much less, by the way), we will not fly Spirit on cross-country flights, if avoidable (these flights were MIA-LAX and NYC-LAX). As the two occasions we had for the use of bereavement fares were in February and January, we highly valued non-stop flights, which made some other options (like WN) non-starters.

    7 of the 8 flights were on American (which is generally our airline of choice and one on which two family members have elite status). Once I understood the rules (I believe it was V-class availability), it was quite easy to find and book the flights. The flights we wanted were available and the applicable fare class was the lowest available. I forget the exact pricing, but the bereavement fares were significantly lower than the standard fare (the agents said that they were fixed prices by route, so long as the fare class was available). Additionally, the change rules were more generous than you described: as long as the fare class was available, you could change to any flight for no charge. We took advantage of this for one passenger and it was quite convenient and (obviously) saved some money.

    The last ticket was on Delta for NYC-LAX. Delta’s system was very simple: 10% off the best fare available. I’m not sure if it was because I am a Platinum Medallion or because of the bereavement fare, but there was no ticketing charge over the phone. I couldn’t have done much better with other airlines for the fare and was able to get a medallion upgrade one-way (a fluke due to an up-gauge from a 757 to 767 a few days before the flight).

    Both American and Delta simply asked for the name of the deceased, the passenger’s relations and the name, address, and phone number of the funeral home (several years ago, when we used the fares for cases of hospitalization, they asked for the name of the ill family member, relation, and name of hospital). I can only assume they do random spot checks to prevent abuse.

    I should also add that I have never received such top-notch customer service (including from the elite desks) as I have in these cases. The agents jumped through hoops to find flights that met the fare class requirement (AA) or could save some money (DL), even while the phone lines were jammed due to winter weather. The creativity in trying to find routings and looking at alternate dates rivaled the service I’ve come to expect from Cranky Concierge. Additionally, every time I called Delta subsequent to making my reservation, the phone call closed with “I’m sorry for the loss of your grandfather.” As far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to build loyalty than the little things like that (I’m not sure if it is policy or just conscientious agents).

    Anyway, sorry for the long post/rant, but I wanted to make my pitch for the usefulness of bereavement fares and express my disappointment at their loss (I realize that my situation is somewhat unique relative to the traveling public). I plan to pass the relevant portions on to AA customer service (although I know it won’t do any good).

  2. From my airline working days, bereavement fares should never have been around anyway. They weren’t use much, to much info had to be provided by the traveler and checked by the airline.

    Besides what other business gives a discount for this reason? If people are coming over to the house after the burial can you go to the grocery store and say you’re have a bereavement meal and get a discount on food, no so why should airlines give you a discount. Like you said, there are a lot of online shopping sites to find fares that would be less they a bereavement policy.

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