What to Know Before Flying With Ashes Internationally

Caskets, Urns, Shrouds, Vaults

Posted on July 23, 2018 by

Traveling anywhere with cremated remains is a challenge on its own. When you tie in international regulations, customs laws, and airline regulations, it becomes even more complicated.   

If you’re grieving, travel stress is likely to be the last thing you want to deal with. To save yourself the headache – and heartache – from travel issues, be sure to follow these important tips and guidelines for flying internationally with cremated remains.  

Prepare Well In Advance

The first thing to know about traveling internationally with human remains is that every country is different. With domestic travel, you must only deal with one single government’s regulations, complicated as those may be. An international destination, however, means you also need to consider a foreign country’s specific requirements.

Your preparation for international travel with cremains should begin at least two weeks before your flight--or even further in advance if possible.  This will ensure you have enough time for gathering any needed documentation and materials, as well as reaching out to international officials with any questions and giving them ample time to respond.

As soon as possible, contact the destination country’s consulate regarding their requirements on transporting cremated remains. Country regulations vary, but you will likely need the death certificate and certificate of cremation, and possibly even a photo identification of the deceased. Some particularly strict countries require involving a funeral director in the process as well.

Check Airport and Airline Regulations

Before you leave the US, you will need to go through security at the airport of departure.  In fact, rules that apply to domestic flights with human remains apply to international travel as well. This includes TSA guidelines which require having a scannable, non-opaque urn or container to carry the cremains, and keeping all documentation at hand.

International airlines are no different from US-based businesses in the sense that you should always check their policies well before your departure date. As international flights can involve multiple layovers and connecting flights, it’s important that you review the policies for each airline with which you are going to fly.

Since your flight is international – and therefore likely quite a bit longer than a domestic flight – it is even more important that you make use of a durable, easy-to-carry container for the remains. There is a high risk of a material such as glass or ceramic breaking in transit. Wood, plastic, or cardboard are good temporary options for flights.

Sometimes Flying Isn’t an Option

In the most stringent cases, you may have to ship the remains directly to a native funeral director in your destination country. There is very little you can do in these cases but be patient and comply. Be sure to contact the receiving country’s embassy to find out their shipping regulations.

The easiest way to cope with the challenge of international flights with cremated remains is to be prepared, be early, and be patient. Doing so will help you minimize any unneeded additional stress associated with your international trip.

Find information on flying domestically with cremated remains.

Read more articles about cremation on Funerals360.

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