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7 Tips for Flying with Cremated Remains

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Did you know that it’s possible to travel with cremated remains? Keep in mind though, security and individual airlines have rules that must be followed.

Whether you are flying with cremated remains to bring your loved one to their final resting place or sharing remains with other family members, the process requires extensive planning to ensure you get through security and to avoid any issues during an already emotional trip.

If you or someone you know is planning on traveling with cremated remains, continue reading to learn how you can ensure your loved one’s remains are treated with respect and properly handled through airport security.

1. Purchase a temporary urn.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) understands the emotional stress that grieving passengers are under, and as a result, established a clear procedure for screening and handling cremated remains.

All crematory containers are subject to x-ray screening to ensure sensitive items are not being exploited for illegal use. If the contents of the container cannot be determined, TSA officers reserve the right to prohibit your loved one’s remains.

To ease the experience and reduce the risk of being denied, TSA advises grieving travelers purchase a temporary urn made of wood or plastic.

Note: Under no circumstances is a TSA officer permitted to open a crematory container during inspection.

2. Keep the urn in your carry-on bag.

The TSA allows cremation urns to be checked or carried on if you’re using a TSA-approved urn. There is no strict rule that says that you must carry the urn with you when traveling with cremated remains. However, the TSA recommends placing cremated remains in a carry-on bag to protect the contents. Remember that there is also the risk that your bags could be lost or damaged during your trip. Keeping the urn in your carry-on bag gives you one less thing to worry about.

Keep in mind, too, not all airlines allow cremated remains to be carried in checked bags—make sure to check with your airline before going to the airport.

3. Bring the official cremation documentation from the funeral home or cremation provider.

Although documentation from a funeral home is not enough to allow an urn to travel on the plane without first passing through the x-ray, it could come in handy if TSA screeners or airline employees have questions.

Depending on where you are flying, there could be local laws requiring this documentation at your destination. Having documentation like the death certificate and the certificate of cremation on hand could reduce any concern of illegal use.

4. Consult with your airline about specific regulations.

If you’re planning on traveling with your loved one’s remains, it would be smart to inform your airline prior to making the trip so that your sensitive items are properly handled.

Every airline has a specific policy for traveling with cremated remains. Here are several airlines and their respective policies regarding traveling with cremains:

  • American Airlines – All cremains are treated as carry-on bags, and no special documentation is required for domestic travel.
  • Delta Airlines – Cremains may be checked or treated as carry-on bags. Special documentation such as a death or cremation certificate is required. All carry-on bags are subject to x-ray screening.
  • Frontier Airlines – Cremated remains are not accepted.
  • United Airlines – Cremains are treated as carry-on bags. The airline recommends traveling with appropriate documentation for TSA screening

5. Allow yourself extra time to get through security.

Traveling with cremated remains or not, it’s always a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to pass through the security checkpoint.

By arriving at the airport early, you’re giving yourself enough time if the TSA screener does not allow the urn to pass through security. Not only that, but it also ensures you won’t miss your flights and gives you the opportunity to investigate other options for traveling with cremains.

6. Be prepared for more obstacles if traveling internationally.

When it comes to international travel, you may face additional challenges when traveling with cremains. The Cremation Association of North America suggests international travelers:

  • Contact the embassy for the country you are traveling to and verify all legal requirements.
  • Ensure you have required authorization and forms.
  • Plan in advance as the process may take more than two weeks.

7. To avoid any potential issues at the airport, mail the cremated remains instead.

To avoid the issues of either losing your cremated remains or not even being able to travel with them at all, you may want to opt for mailing your cremation urn instead.

One of the major benefits of shipping instead of flying with cremains is that you can use whatever type of urn you want—it’s still a good idea to put the urn inside a sealed plastic bag, just to be safe.

To ship cremains in the United States, you must send them via Priority Express Mail—for international shipping, they must be sent Priority Express Mail International. The post office will provide a Cremated Remains label to clearly mark your box so that postal employees know to treat it with care.

Find Cremation Services Fit for You

At Busch Funeral and Crematory Services, we understand the emotional stress you may be under while traveling with the remains of a loved one. To learn more about how you can ease the experience, download our cremation cost guide.

Download our cremation costs explained guide

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Jeff Hogan
Jeff Hogan
Passionate about service and community involvement, and one of Busch's longest-standing employees. Jeff is involved in several Elyria-area organizations, churches and schools. He also enjoys serving the diverse cultural and religious Cleveland community.Proudly serving Busch families since 1990.

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