What to Do When A Loved One Dies Away From Home?

Funeral Planning

Posted on July 23, 2013 by Rachel Zeldin

Transportation of Remains by Air

It is stressful enough when a loved one dies, but when a loved one dies away from home there is an added layer of complexity.

What is the common process of transporting the deceased home or to the location of the funeral?

To get answers to these questions, we spoke with Anne Wladecki, Client Relations Manager at Eagle’s Wings Air (EWA), specialists in air transportation management of human remains, to shed some insight on this topic. According to Anne, it is unnecessary for the family of the deceased to be directly involved in setting up air transportation of their loved one. She indicates that the first step for the family involved is to contact a funeral home of their choice at the location of where the funeral will take place.

This funeral home, known as the Receiving Funeral Home, will do the majority of the coordination on behalf of the family. The Receiving Funeral Home has the responsibility of coordinating all flights and contacting the Shipping Funeral Home, the funeral home holding the deceased. If the family is familiar with the location where the death occurred, they could request a particular Shipping Funeral Home, otherwise they can ask the Receiving Funeral Home to identify and coordinate with one at the shipping location, including making arrangements for ground transport from the hospital, morgue, assisted living facility, etc. to the Shipping Funeral Home for preparation for air travel.

Human remains are considered to be “specialty cargo” which has limited space on passenger flights. Typically they can only be carried on larger passenger planes, which only allow one or two spaces per flight.

The Receiving Funeral Home will coordinate the date, time, cost, and specific airline being used directly with the airline or with a 3rd party like Eagle’s Wings Air. A family should indicate to the funeral home their preference with regards to costs, timing, and body preparation at the shipping location. Once these details have been confirmed and costs approved by the family, the Shipping Funeral Home will prepare the body for air transportation.

No law requires remains to be embalmed for flight. Therefore, the Shipping Funeral Home will either embalm the body or preserve it for transportation with gel packs or dry ice as requested by the family.

Then the Shipping Funeral Home will transport the body to the airport’s cargo center. Upon arrival at the destination airport, the Receiving Funeral Home will pick up the shipment and bring it back to the funeral home to complete preparations as indicated by the family. The Receiving Funeral Home or a 3rd party company would coordinate the transportation of your deceased loved one to the location of the funeral home, but families should be aware of a few more details.

Costs of Transporting Remains By Air

Air transport of remains can be quite costly. Wladecki says it is similar to booking a last minute round-trip flight for a passenger – hundreds of dollars for domestic flights and thousands if international. To assist with the cost, Wladecki advises families to check their travel insurance, if applicable, to see if the cost or part of the cost would be covered by the insurance if the death happened, especially while on vacation or a business trip. Aside from the cost of the airfare, families should also take into consideration the following costs:

  • Ground Transport to the airport by the Shipping Funeral Home

  • Ground Transport from the airport to the Receiving Funeral home

  • Booking or Service Fees (EWA charges $59 for domestic services and $89 for international, for example)

  • Forwarding Remains - the cost the Shipping Funeral Home charges for picking up the remains, preparing them for shipping, and delivery of them to the airport

Key Terms 

Shipping Funeral Home:

The funeral home at the origin location (where the person died). The Shipping Funeral Home is responsible for obtaining, preparing, and tendering  the remains at the airport to be shipped to the Receiving Funeral Home.

Receiving Funeral Home:

The funeral home at the destination where the family is intending for the burial or cremation. Normally the Receiving Funeral Home is appointed first since they will do the majority of the coordination with the airline and the Shipping Funeral Home. They will likely consolidate the costs for the family, so the family only has to pay one funeral home.


About The Guest Author

Eagle’s Wings Air is the leading provider of air transportation management for North American funeral directors. Eagle’s Wings Air is a 3rd party service that works directly with funeral homes to assist in the arrangement of flight services for human remains. Eagle’s Wings Air works with all the different airlines.

To assist the funeral director, EWA researches and books flights, coordinates transfer flights, and finds the best routing for the funeral homes on behalf of the families they serve.