Transporting Ashes by Plane: 4 Things to Know Before Your Flight

Posted on August 14, 2018 by Bevis Funeral Home under Cremation
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flying with cremated remains

The funeral is over and you have taken responsibility to honor the wishes of the deceased by transporting their ashes back home. And sometimes, that stress is only heightened by the need to travel with a loved one’s cremated remains. Can you take them on the plane? What are the first steps to take?

Whether you’re traveling back home with an urn following a memorial service or taking a loved one’s ashes to be scattered in one of their favorite places, depending on location, you may find yourself with limited transportation options.

If you find that you have to fly with the ashes of the deceased, be sure to follow these important steps to get prepared.

Check TSA Guidelines

The Transportation Security Administration permits flying with cremated remains both in their carry-on bags and in checked luggage. However, the container should not be made of a material that generates an opaque x-ray image, as TSA agents will be unable to scan the urn to determine what is inside.

Scannable materials include wood, plastic, transparent glass, cloth and fiberboard. Most metals, ceramics and stone urns are not permitted. To be safe, TSA advises people to purchase either a temporary or permanent crematory container that is made of a lighter weight material such as wood or plastic. TSA policy states that agents will not open cremation containers under any circumstances.

You will need to present TSA agents at security with the death certificate and certificate of cremation. It’s also beneficial to attach additional copies of the certificates to the container carrying the ashes—especially if you plan to transport the urn in checked luggage.

Know Airline Requirements

Though most major airlines allow you to fly with cremated remains, some have additional restrictions beyond TSA’s standard guidelines. It is important to check your airline’s policy at least seven days prior to arriving at the airport because some airlines require advance notification if you intend to bring remains in a carry-on.

Review the following major airlines’ policies on traveling with cremated remains prior to your trip.

Delta: Permitted with a death and cremation certificate. “Cremated remains can be accepted as either carry-on, checked baggage or shipped unaccompanied as cargo. The passenger must have a death or cremation certificate.”

American Airlines: Permitted. “When you travel with cremated remains, they’ll be treated as carry-on baggage. No special documentation is needed if you’re traveling domestically, but please contact a local consulate or burial advisor if you’re traveling internationally since the rules vary.”

United: Permitted as a carry-on only, with required documentation. “If you’re traveling with cremated human remains, they need to be transported as carry-on baggage. For travel within the U.S., it’s highly recommended that you travel with appropriate documentation (such as a document from the funeral home or a death certificate) to present during TSA screening.”

Spirit: Permitted. “Documentation from the funeral home is not sufficient to carry a crematory container through security and onto a plane without screening. To be transported as checked baggage, the crematory container must be successfully screened during the checked baggage screening process.”

Frontier: Permitted. “The container must be made of a material such as wood or plastic that can be successfully screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).”

Southwest: Permitted as a carry-on only. “Southwest Airlines will not accept human remains as checked baggage; however, a customer may take cremated remains onboard a domestic U.S. or international flight as a carry-on item under certain conditions. A customer or funeral/cremation facility may choose to transport either cremated or uncremated remains via Southwest Airlines Cargo. Advanced arrangements are required for this service.”

Give Yourself Extra Time to get through Security

While it’s always advised to arrive early to the airport to account for long lines and unforeseen delays, it is even more important to give yourself additional time to get through security when you are flying with cremated remains. Not only will TSA officers need to see and review documentation at numerous checkpoints before you board your flight, but there is also the possibility that your urn does not pass through security clearance.

If the urn does not meet TSA requirements and you are unable to travel with it, arriving early will allow you to make alternative transportation arrangements for the ashes without having to cancel your flight.

Consider Alternative Options

In some cases, especially during international travel, flying with cremated remains just isn’t an option. If you are unable to fly with your loved one’s remains, or you’d prefer to avoid the airport security hassle altogether, shipping ashes is also an option.

Currently, the United States Postal Service offers the only legal method of shipping cremated remains domestically and internationally. There are specific requirements for preparing and packaging the human or animal cremated remains that you plan to ship. Be sure to thoroughly review the USPS guidelines or call the postal service with any questions before you attempt to ship the ashes.

If you are interested in learning more about cremation services, or would like to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable funeral director about choosing an urn for travel, call Bevis Funeral Home at 850-385-2193.

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