Grieving Calgary family call for compassion from airlines after bereavement fare denial

A grieving Calgary family is calling out two of Canada’s major airlines for lack of compassion after being denied bereavement fare discounts.

“It was hard enough losing someone that you love,” Trevor Simpson told Global News. “To get nothing back — it’s another slap in the face.”

Simpson got the call early last month that his father was gravely ill. He quickly booked a flight out to PEI, hoping to make it in time. He didn’t. But the said what makes things even worse was the way they’ve been treated by WestJet and Air Canada.

Read more: Bereavement fares can lead to confusion

“A couple of days after filling out the forms, I got a message,” Trevor’s wife Carol said. “‘Sorry about your loss. But because you got it on a promotion, you do not qualify for bereavement.’”

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Carol said she was stunned, adding while the flight was on a “seat sale” at the time of booking, she didn’t expect it would make the bereavement discount null and void.

“I thought that was ridiculous so right away I went back to the WestJet website where the bereavement stuff was. There was nothing (saying) that you can’t book it during a seat sale.”

Click to play video: '‘A very painful and overwhelming experience’: Coping with grief over the holidays'

‘A very painful and overwhelming experience’: Coping with grief over the holidays

The Simpson’s then reached out to Air Canada — the flight home from PEI.

“They told me I have to book directly through them,” Carol said she was told, but again said she couldn’t find on the airline’s website.

“Bereavement is bereavement. You have to shell out so much money for a plane ticket. And not to get even 30-to-20 per cent back — it’s not fair.

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Travel agent Lesley Keyter told Global News bereavement fares are harder to get these days. Keyter added some airlines are actually scrapping these discounts altogether as a part of regularly doing business.

“It’s not really cost-effective for the airlines,” Keyter said,

The longtime travel expert said not only is it not cost-effective, in most cases it’s not necessary, adding most airlines are already offering discounted seats in other ways — be it seat sales or various seat classes. She pointed out those can actually be much better value than the bereavement fares.

Click to play video: 'Airline customer left confused over bereavement fares'

Airline customer left confused over bereavement fares

“(Bereavement fare is) probably going to be more expensive than the best seat sale rate you can get with the airlines,” she said.

“Crunch the numbers.”

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As for the added stress for some families doing all this research all while grieving, she said it’s an unfortunate reality.

“It is very sad and my sympathies go out to them,” she added. “But at the end of the day the airline is a business and they are discounting heavily in any event.”

“It should be more straightforward. More straightforward,” the Simpson family said. “When you’re going through a grieving process, you shouldn’t have the extra stress to deal with on top.”

Read more: Travellers should look at fine print before booking cheap flights, industry experts warn

WestJet has told Global News that while this is an airline policy, it is not reflected on the website. The Calgary-based airline has now told us it apologizes and will honour the discount.

Air Canada told Global News its bereavement fares “offer greater flexibility during uncertain times.”

A statement went on to say some discounted fares are not eligible for an additional discount, and there may also be cheaper fares available online. As for how to get the discount: “Bereavement fares may be accessed by contacting Air Canada directly, as detailed on Air Canada’s website.”

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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