Over on FlyerTalk, islandcub1 posted seeking advice as to whether or not he would be better off using miles to book a ticket for his father to be with his dying uncle (his father’s brother), or should he book a bereavement fare.
Little did he know the disagreement this would cause. And perhaps even more surprisingly, the disagreement was initiated by this story from Finkface:
I got almost no sleep the night I flew home the first time as my mother died in the middle of the night. I had no status and really, no knowledge of FF perks at the time. I showed up at the airport and there was a huge line at check in. I just couldn’t face it and went to an empty desk (could have been baggage or special services, who knows, but it wasn’t anything to do with checking in) as I just wanted to know if I truly had to wait in that line as I only had carry on or if I could just go to the gate. I must have looked terrible because without a word, the woman said ‘I’ll take care if it’, printed something up, handed it to me and told me just to go ahead. Just before I boarded, preparing to take my middle seat in the back, I looked at what she had given me and it was an upgrade to C and an almost lie-flat seat. I don’t think I even thanked her properly for getting me through the line as I was a mess, much less for this. It was the nicest thing I have ever encountered and all without me asking.
At first blush that seems like a nice story, doesn’t it? canadiancow doesn’t seem to think so:
I’d be pretty disappointed to learn that I didn’t get an upgrade because a check-in agent felt bad for someone. …
my issue is that there may also be a tired, distressed Super Elite, legitimately on the upgrade list, who has an OLCI BP and doesn’t have to wait in any lines …
My point is just that regardless the situation of a random passenger, it’s not a good assumption that they’re worse off than whomever is at the top of the upgrade list. My strategy for upgrades is typically to OLCI at T-24, get to the airport way before departure, maybe visit the lounge, and then get to the gate.
So who’s more deserving of an upgrade? A SE on a Y fare whose [close family member] has just died, or a no-status Tango fare in the same situation?
I just booked a DL F fare because it worked better for me. But there are many reasons I maintain SE status on AC, and one is planning for future events.
Or taking this even further, who’s more deserving? A SE on a $5000 ticket, or someone with no status on a $500 ticket.
To be fair, I’m not attempting to portray canadiancow in a bad light. He makes some valid, if perhaps somewhat blunt points. And in post #25 islandcub1 summarizes the debate, and the plight of the airlines, very nicely:
From what I can tell, Air Canada (as well as other airlines) is in a no win situation when it comes to bereavement.
If they offer bereavement fares, some people will complain that they’re subsidizing other people’s situations.
If they don’t offer bereavement fares, some people will complain that they’re heartless.
If the airport staff are compassionate, some people will complain that they are deprived of their benefits.
If the airport staff adhere strictly to the rules, some people will complain that they are uncaring.
If in any situation the airline takes a middle path, they get it from both sides.
What do you think? Does loyalty trump bereavement? How would you handle these situations if you were in charge of an airline? And how much, if any, authority should agents be afforded with regard to bypassing the normal rules for extraordinary situations?
Read the thread in its entirety: Should I have booked a bereavement fare?