Traveling with Cremated Remains
Traveling by Air Within the U.S.
Many airlines will allow you to transport cremated remains, but check with your airline beforehand about their rules and whether they allow carrying the remains as air cargo, checked luggage or carry-on.
- Go to your airline’s website and search for “cremated remains.” Don’t wait until the day of travel to check the airline’s policies. Some airlines require seven days’ advance notice before shipping as air cargo and have the right to refuse if you do not comply.
- Review the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirements which mandate that the container or urn be able to be scanned. The TSA will not permit a container that returns an “opaque image” through security.
- Even after complying with all regulations, it is important to arrive earlier than usual to allow enough time for security clearance so you don’t miss your flight.
- When going through security, in addition to your airline documents and personal ID, show the death certificate, certificate of cremation, and other funeral-related documentation; attach a copy to the container or urn.
- Check with a licensed funeral director both at your origin of travel and your destination to determine if there are local regulations that you must consider.
Transporting Cremated Remains Internationally
Traveling internationally is more complicated and will take some research on your part. Every country has different policies regarding the transport of cremated remains.
Germany, for instance, requires that cremated remains can only be sent to a licensed cemetery, and only a licensed funeral director can send them. Some advice to start your research:
- First, contact the embassy for the country you are taking cremated remains to or from. Ask about their specific rules and legal requirements. Don’t rely on a website. Policies can change with world conditions.
- Ask the embassy contact if the country you will be entering will require additional authorizations. If so, ask if the embassy can provide you with the forms or if you will have to contact a licensed funeral director or an attorney to comply with the country’s laws.
- When completing this process, allow at least two weeks or more.
Transportation Security Guidelines
The TSA staff will never open an urn or container containing cremated remains, even if you give them permission. If the TSA cannot properly scan the container in which the cremated remains are stored, they will not allow you to transport them by air and you will have to ship them by U.S. Postal Service registered mail.
Some Helpful Suggestions:
- Store the ashes in a temporary container that can be scanned while traveling, and then transfer the cremains into an urn or other container after reaching your destination.
- Urns that can be scanned include cardboard, cloth, fiberboard, and most wooden urns, plastic and transparent glass. Ask your funeral provider for suggestions on urns that are certified as airport-travel safe.
- Urns that cannot be scanned are those made of stone, granite, some ceramics, and metal.
- If transporting an urn that cannot be scanned, consider putting the cremated remains in a plastic bag inside the urn so that the items can be properly scanned and meet TSA requirements.