How To Take The Stress Out of Flying With Cremated Remains
Even in the best of times, packing for a trip and working your way through airport security can be a stressful experience. For travelers who are flying home with the cremains of a loved one it can be both an emotional and anxious time. The TSA has partnered with the funeral homes in the United States to streamline the process and has published clear and easy to follow guidelines. Below you’ll find the recommended guidelines as well as some practical advise to make your journey as trouble-free as possible.
#1 You should be aware that the TSA has one set of rules for flying with cremains, but the airline you are traveling on may have different requirements. Both the TSA and airlines try to be as sensitive to your situation as possible. In general, cremains of either human or pets are allowed on flights within the United States.
If you are planning to pack the cremains in checked luggage, you must determine if that is allowed on the airline you are traveling with. You can find that information on your airline’s website by searching under “Baggage Allowance”.
#2 Although some airlines allow for cremated remains to be packed in checked baggage, we strongly recommend that you keep the cremains with you in your carry-on bag. We’ve all seen luggage that has been badly mistreated during it’s journey from the conveyer belt to the airplane luggage hold and back again. Furthermore a security agent who is scanning checked bags may attempt to open the container to verify the contents, although this is supposedly not permitted. Still, the internet is filled with reports of cremains being opened and not properly resealed or the container breaking. You don’t want to take the chance of this happening, so keep the cremains in your possession.
#3 Speak with your funeral home and let them know you will be flying with the cremains. They are well versed in the procedures and will make sure that the cremains are in a TSA-friendly container. Most funerals homes have pledged to transfer cremains into an appropriate vessel free of charge. If you wish to transfer them into a fancier urn at your destination, you should be able to easily locate a funeral home who will do this also free of charge.
#4 The most important step is to be sure your container can be scanned at the security check point. This means the container should be made out of wood, plastic, cardboard or cloth. Often times ceramic objects block the scanning rays which would mean you would NOT be allowed to fly with the cremains – even if you offered to open the container! Out of respect for the deceased, TSA agents are never supposed to open cremains containers. A further word to the wise is to have the ashes placed in a plastic bag inside the container so that if a breakage or puncture should occur the cremains will be secure.
#5 Every airline has their own rules for required documentation. Some airlines require no official documents at all, while others require a copy of the death certificate or cremation certificate. Most airlines have a dedicated phone number and specially trained agents to assist you with your journey. In any event, the packaging containing the cremains should be clearly labeled as to their contents and your contact information.
#6 Flying internationally with cremains takes more research. You should contact the Embassy of the country you are traveling to and obtain their specific requirements for documentation and procedures. Most countries maintain Embassy offices in Washington, DC and other major cities in the United States.
#7 For more information and to answer your specific questions, the TSA has a dedicated phone number 866-289-9673 or your can contact them on the Talk To TSA website.
#8 Cremains can also be shipped by the United States Postal Service via Priority Express service only. You should be aware the Fed Ex and UPS do not accept cremains for shipment. Here is a special publication by the Postal Service to assist you: http://about.usps.com/publications/pub139.pdf
With a bit of preparation, flying with cremains does not need to be a stressful experience.