Travelling can be stressful, even at the best times. But travelling due to the death or immanent death of a loved one comes with its own unique challenges. On top of the emotional toll of illness or death, events such as funerals often can’t be anticipated far in advance, so travellers are left to book flights and accommodations last-minute. Travelling with a loved one’s remains can be equally trying, as there are a unique set of rules in place to follow.
If you have to travel for either reason, we’ve got some info to help your trip go smoothly. Below we break down bereavement fares and talk about some must-dos for travelling with cremated remains.
What are bereavement fares?
Bereavement fares are reduced fares for grieving passengers who are travelling last-minute. They’re intended to help make travellers’ journeys as straightforward as possible. Although many airlines have stopped offering bereavement fares, Air Canada and WestJet still do.
Air Canada bereavement fares
Air Canada offers reduced fares if you need to travel due to the death of an immediate family member only.
These flights are available on select itineraries for flights operated by:
- Air Canada
- Air Canada Rouge
- Air Canada Express
A few things to note:
Bereavement fares are available for round-trip and select one-way bookings for international travel, and one-way bookings for travel within North America only. They can’t be applied to international business class travel, international flights in premium economy class, and flights operated by other airlines or Air Canada’s code share partners.
Also, your trip needs to start within 7 days of booking for international travel, and 10 days if you’re travelling within North America. Plus, your maximum stay can’t go beyond 30 days if you’re travelling internationally.
How to book bereavement flights with Air Canada
Call Air Canada’s Customer Support at: 1-888-247-2262 or book at an Air Canada ticket counter.
To prove you’re in fact booking a flight for bereavement travel, you’ll need documents containing some pertinent information, for example:
- The name of the family member who died, the phone number and address of the hospital and attending physician
- Contact info for the funeral home and date of funeral
- To book at the airport counter, you’ll need to show a copy of the death certificate or a letter from a physician defining the imminent death of the family member
WestJet bereavement fares
WestJet offers bereavement fares to people who have had a death in their family or are experiencing an imminent death. Unlike Air Canada, they also offer civic funeral fares: reduced fares for travellers going to a funeral for fire fighters, police officers, military personnel, or emergency service providers who’ve died in the line of duty.
WestJet bereavement fares are available for the following:
- Premium fares
A few things to note:
West Jet’s fares offer maximum flexibility without fees, but they don’t include travel on WestJet’s partner airlines and require travel to be completed within a 14-day period. The airline encourages travellers to look for a lower price on their website before booking a bereavement fare, but these fares can be subject to a change fee, if applicable.
How to book bereavement or civic funeral fares with WestJet
Call WestJet at: 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET)
You’ll need some additional general information at the time of booking. WestJet may call you if they need to know more.
How to travel with cremated remains
While many may be travelling to attend the memorial of a loved one, some may be travelling to bring cremated remains to their final resting place.
If this is the case, you’ll need to ensure certain standards are met. CATSA specifies how to fly with remains.
Here are a few tips:
- You can bring cremated remains with you on the plane in a container or urn, but it will need to go through the X-ray first.
- Cremated remains should be transferred into temporary urns for travel. The urn must be scannable for the X-ray to clearly scan its contents. (You can transfer it back to a permanent urn at your destination.)
- Provide a cremation certificate or statement of death indicating who passed away and the time of death to the airline (this will not, however, exempt the urn from having to pass through an X-ray).
- Screening officers are not allowed to open the cremation container.
- Find out if it’s legal to scatter remains at your intended destination. Laws vary from place to place.
The CATSA website provides more details on how to travel with remains, including what materials are best for a travel urn, and how to prepare before heading to the airport.
Wherever you’re heading, whether it’s to attend the funeral of a loved one in another province or bring remains to a final resting place in another country, consider getting travel insurance. Emergency Medical Insurance will cover you if you have an accident or medical emergency out of your home province and a Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption has got you covered for cancelled flights or missed connections due to weather, travel advisories and more.
Take care and safe travels,