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News, Tips & Bargains | TRAVEL INSIDER

Special airfares, when available, may not be bargains

Seats for the military, seniors, kids and the bereaved are harder to find -- and may cost more than regular rates.

May 14, 2006|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

* Military: Many airlines still provide perks to military members and their families. American this month extended a program, through Jan. 19, that offers discounted airfares, relaxed advance-purchase rules and preferred boarding. Continental takes 5% off airfares bought online by members of Veterans Advantage, a nationwide discount program.

* Bereavement: These last-minute fares for funerals and illnesses are no longer assured.

Such fares "are no longer necessary," Delta's website says, because its SimpliFares provide "affordable" last-minute fares, capped at $599 each way in the contiguous U.S. states.

Berg also cited low prices for Southwest's lack of bereavement fares.

Several companies still offer such fares by phone, and these often can save you money. But if you're used to buying the lowest-priced leisure tickets weeks or months in advance, prepare for a shock.

"You won't get the $299 fares advertised in the paper," Sudeikis said.

That's because airlines charge those who book last the most.

When I phoned United on May 4 asking for a same-day bereavement fare for a May 4-7 nonstop round trip between LAX and New York's JFK, I was quoted $638.60, including tax. That was more than 40% off United's lowest fare, $1,101 (plus taxes), that day, based on a search at Orbitz and also less than other airlines' cheapest nonstop ($748) and one-stop ($667) flights.

The bereavement fare, of course, was no deal compared with advance-purchase fares (checking random dates in June, I found one on United for $422.60), but it wasn't bad for a last-minute booking.


Jane Engle welcomes comments but can't respond individually to letters and calls. Write to Travel Insider, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., CA 90012, or e-mail

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