And They Never Gripe About The Food

In the scramble for passengers, USAir has started a frequent-dier program, focusing on the corpse market. The Arlington (Va.)-based airline is offering funeral directors one free domestic round-trip ticket if they ship 30 bodies via USAir. Since the program, called TLC, began in October, USAir has transported 500 bodies, boosting their human-remains business by 30% over the comparable period a year ago. Part of the traffic surge is probably due to the fact that, for a variety of reasons, a lot of deaths away from home occur around the yearend holidays. Says airline spokeswoman Andrea Butler: "We are in high season."

Other airlines will carry bodies, although USAir's push into this niche is unique. Carriers offer cargo rates for bodies, shipped in their coffins in the hold, as well as discounts up to 50% for accompanying relatives. Under USAir's program (phone: 800 TLC-3333), to take Uncle Beezer from Pittsburgh to Chicago for his final rest, it's $264 for you and $230 for him.

USAir is promoting the program through trade newsletters and magazines. In the ads, it says it's "reaching a higher level of service," and shows a plane climbing upward, presumably toward heaven.

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