American Airlines eliminates bereavement fares.

American Airlines has eliminated bereavement fares, which are lower than typical last-minute bookings. (Tim Boyle / Bloomberg)

American Airlines has eliminated its so-called bereavement fares for people who need to book a last-minute flight because of the death of a loved one.

The airline, which is merging with US Airways, said it discontinued the fare as of Feb. 18 to be consistent with the policies of US Airways.

In the past, American Airlines offered a bereavement fare that was lower than typical last-minute fares but varied based on route, departure time, availability and other factors.

Instead, American Airlines now offers only to waive change fees for travelers who have a pre-purchased ticket and want to use it to attend the funeral of an immediate family member.

Bereavement fares on other airlines can save passengers 5% to 50% on last-minute bookings, which are typically the most expensive fares. But travel experts say passengers can usually book cheaper fares by searching the Internet.

"I don't see this as a huge issue as 5% off a $900 fare isn't going to make that big of a difference to someone in an emotionally chaotic state," said Rick Seaney, chief executive of the travel website FareCompare.com. 

At Delta Air Lines, for example, bereavement fares vary in price and apply only in the event of the death of an immediate family member. The airline also requires documentation, such as the name of the deceased family member and the name and phone number of the funeral home or hospice.

At United Airlines, the bereavement fare is 5% off the regular price for last-minute flights and the carrier requires a copy of the death certificate as verification.

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