A truly macabre reason to join Delta’s frequent flier program

graveyardHere’s a rather macabre reason for being a Delta Air Lines frequent flier: access to bereavement fares.

I first wrote about this strange policy earlier this year. As it turns out, the “no-bereavement-fares-for-non-members” rule is not only easily bent; it’s obsolete.

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Cindy Fletcher got on the wrong side of this policy it after she and her husband shelled out $2,200 to attend her father’s funeral. This was a walk-up fare that’s meant to be paid by free-spending business travelers — not grieving passengers. When she came home, she asked for a refund for the difference between the higher fare and Delta’s bereavement fare.

Her husband was granted the request (he’s a SkyMiles member) but she wasn’t, because she didn’t belong to Delta’s frequent flier program.

She explains:

Customer Care told me they couldn’t help me because I had already flown. This made no sense because my husband’s ticket received a refund and he had also already flown.

Repeated requests for a response to my actual concerns were met with apologies that I felt their previous responses to me were inadequate. So I have two different reasons for a denial of any refund and received no indication that anyone really reviewed my concerns.

Delta is correct in one respect: The time to negotiate any bereavement fare is before you pay for your ticket. Retroactive price adjustments are rare, because they’re a pain. Airlines have numerous systems in place to prevent the money from flowing in the other direction.

Here’s is Delta’s response to her final appeal. It is almost certainly a form response, and it suggests the airline didn’t review her email at all:

Thank you for your most recent communication expressing your continued dissatisfaction with my response. On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I apologize that I have been unable to offer a satisfactory resolution.

I am genuinely sorry it was necessary for you to write me again. I was concerned that I missed the purpose of your original communication so I reviewed your comments with my Supervisor. After a lengthy discussion, there is no further action we will take regarding your experience. Again, I am sorry to disappoint you, as I understand this is not the answer you were expecting.

Ms. Fletcher, again, I am sorry your travel was unsatisfactory. I hope in time you will provide us with another opportunity to restore your confidence.

This was such a non-response that I felt certain Fletcher would stand an excellent chance of getting a refund if she could actually get someone at Delta to read her grievance. So I recommended a few contacts.

Fletcher followed up with them. And sure enough …

I tried Beth Reed, one of the contacts you provided, and she initiated a review of my request. In a relatively short time, I received a refund off of my ticket. Thank you for your help.

I spoke with Delta about its bereavement fares policy after hearing back from Fletcher. A representative says it currently offers the fares to anyone, regardless of frequent flier membership.

“We offer bereavement fares based on availability no matter who the passenger is and it does not depend on whether they are a SkyMiles member,” the representative told me.

That’s the way it should be.

(Photo: Jordon/Flickr Creative Commons)