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What to Know Before Flying with Ashes Domestically in the US

Caskets, Urns, Shrouds, Vaults

Posted on July 10, 2018 by

Travelling can be stressful in the best of circumstances. When it’s accompanied by the death of a loved one, it can be even more difficult. If you need to transport a loved one’s ashes, you may encounter situations which delay travel – and possibly prevent you from boarding altogether. Prepare with the following information and advice so you aren’t surprised when you attempt to board your plane.

TSA Guidelines

The TSA permits cremated remains in carry-ons, and in checked bags by the airline’s discretion. With carry-on bags, however, there are special instructions you need to follow to avoid delays. Before you leave for the airport, pack the death certificate and certificate of cremation. Be prepared to show these to the TSA agents at security. It’s also advised that you have an additional copy to attach to the urn or container carrying the ashes.

TSA agents will scan your urn, so it must be a material that does not return an opaque image. Materials that can be scanned include wood, plastic, transparent glass, cloth, and fiberboard. When purchasing a container, it should be airplane travel-safe. Most metals, ceramics, and stone urns are not permitted at the airport. The TSA policy states that agents will not open any containers, so the material needs to be scannable.

Airline Requirements

Even if the TSA permits cremated remains, it’s important that you check your airline’s policy before you leave. You should do this at least seven days in advance, because some airlines require advance notification if you intend to bring remains in a carry-on.

Though most airlines fall in line with the TSA guidelines, some are more restrictive than others. Southwest, for example, only allows cremated remains in carry-on baggage and explicitly prohibits ashes in checked luggage.

Additional Factors to Consider

There are a few additional factors to consider when transporting cremated remains through flying. Even though glass is a permitted container, for example, it is also fragile and should be used at your discretion. You may want to consider a temporary container for transportation, and then purchasing a permanent urn at your destination.

Arriving early to the airport is important under normal travel circumstances, but even more so with remains in your cargo. TSA may need to see and review documentation, all of which can eat up your time. It is better to arrive early and not be asked for papers than to arrive late and be stopped repeatedly.

You also have the option of shipping remains via USPS. Other carriers do not ship remains, but USPS allows the shipping of ashes (with some restrictions), and can save you from invasive and uncomfortable situations at the airport.

If you’re looking for information on flying with cremains internationally, we’ll be posting an article about that topic next week.

Read more articles about cremation on Funerals360.