Flying with ashes FAQ: all the rules and regulations you need to know

Flying with ashes FAQ: all the rules and regulations you need to know

Flying with ashes may seem daunting, especially if you are still in the middle of the grieving process. But, it doesn’t have to be as taxing as you might be anticipating.

If you are considering traveling with ashes, you must abide by certain precautions to make the process as simple and less emotionally draining as possible.

Make sure to follow TSA regulations, such as using a travel urn and bringing a certificate of death and certificate of cremation along with you. Be prepared to follow individual airline requirements as well since each airline differs in its specific protocols.

Continue reading to learn more about what you must do to prepare for traveling with ashes. Don’t worry – I promise to leave my silly commentary / jokes out of this one for once…

Can you take cremated ashes on a plane?

While traveling with ashes on a plane is legal, each airline has its unique regulations and routines (just as it is when flying with a large dog).

Additionally, some airlines require that you let them know ahead of time that you plan to travel with remains, so it’s imperative that you do thorough research before purchasing your ticket and abide by all rules and regulations of both TSA and your chosen airline.

Though TSA allows travelers to bring cremated remains onto planes, there are still regulations you must abide by.

For example:

  • You must make sure that an X-Ray machine can scan the urn or container you bring the ashes in.
  • Because it is illegal for TSA agents to forcibly open a container with remains, they must be able to see inside to determine that you are indeed transporting remains.

For this reason, you may want to purchase a travel urn. These are low in cost and can save you hassle and stress during the security check process. Travel urns made with wood and plastic materials are safe bets, but make sure to double-check on the TSA website in case their protocol changes.

You also want to make sure that your travel urn can seal itself properly. The last thing you want is for the remains to spill during transportation accidentally, so make that a top priority when browsing for travel urns. Here’s one that I recommend:

Airline Safe Plastic Travel Cremation Urn for Human Ashes
$29.99
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Note: I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
10/06/2022 11:19 pm GMT

How much does it cost to fly with ashes?

For the most part, flying with ashes is low in cost; this is especially true if you plan to fly domestically. When you fly domestically, you should only need the certificate of death to board your plane. This certificate cost ranges from state to state, but it should never exceed more than 25 dollars.

For international flights, the process becomes a bit more complicated and costly. Still, it shouldn’t be an exorbitant fee.

Depending on the country you plan to travel to, you will need to carry several more forms, such as a letter from the health department and a letter from the Funeral Director. Still, each of these forms typically only costs between 20 and 25 dollars.

Which airlines allow cremated remains?

All of the major airlines allow you to bring cremated remains onto a flight. Delta, American Airlines, United, Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest allow travelers to carry on or check remains, though some are more stringent.

For example:

  • Southwest permits remain carry-on only and do not allow you to check your remains. If you must fly Southwest but do not wish to transport remains as a carry-on, you or your cremation facility can arrange to ship the remains through Southwest Airlines Cargo. Of course, this process demands a much more detailed approach.
  • Frontier and American Airlines have very straightforward procedures; they say that the container must be made of material that can be scanned by their X-Ray machines (such as wood or plastic) so that TSA can verify that you are carrying remains.
  • Both Delta and United require death certificates and cremation certificates.
  • Spirit Airlines is unique in that it says that a funeral director’s note is insufficient and that the remains must be successfully screened during TSA screening.

It’s also worth noting that you can check a box as luggage, so placing the ashes in a travel-safe urn, and then into a cardboard box is an option for anyone who doesn’t want to bring human remains onto the plane with them as a carry-on.

The bottom line is this: each airline has its regulations, and many times airlines change their procedures based on threat levels, air travel congestion, and beyond. It’s smart to double check with the airline you’re flying just to make sure there haven’t been any last-minute rule changes.

flying over Colorado
Be sure to check with your airline before attempting to bring human ashes onboard. As if flying to attend a funeral isn’t enough of a bummer, being denied boarding is only going to make things worse.

How do you bring ashes on a plane?

Once you have checked to make sure your airline accepts human remains, the next step for you to take is to print out the proper documentation to present to TSA agents.

  • As a standard, you will need to bring the death certificate as well as documents from the funeral home saying the human remains in the urn are who you claim.
  • You will also need to bring proper documentation; the amount of documentation depends greatly on your destination and airline. It’s essentially a lot like flying with medication.

However, TSA recommends that you should bring one (or all) of the following documents.

  • The death certificate
  • The certificate of cremation
  • Document from the funeral home stating that the urn contains the cremated remains
  • Proof of your relationship to the passed loved one (like a birth certificate

Again, different airlines may require more documents, so you must check online before your flight date. For safety, you may want to bring all of the above if TSA or an airline changes its policies last minute.

Some travelers choose to attach copies of these certificates onto the urns in case they get lost during the flight. This is a great idea if you decide to check the remains instead of bringing them as a carry-on.

Once you have checked with your airline to meet their proper protocol, transporting the ashes onto a plane is a relatively simple process. Many people choose to carry the ashes on the plane so as to keep an eye on the remains during the flight.

view from airplane window
It’s also a good idea to arrive for your flight early. Sorting out any kinks that arise with your ashes may require additional time to work out. To avoid missing your flight, plan to arrive at the airport earlier than you usually would.

Lastly, know that taking ashes onto a plane can be an incredibly stressful experience; but it doesn’t have to be. Most of the work is done before the flight itself. On the day of the flight, make sure to be calm and relaxed and know that so long as you have proper documentation, flying with ashes will most likely be an easy, painless experience.

Can you take ashes on an international flight?

You can take ashes on an international flight. Still, each airline (and country) will have their own customs and rules, so it largely depends on the airline you plan to fly on.

  1. You will need to contact the Consulate before you travel. Each country has its requirements for flying with ashes (or even if it accepts human remains). To contact individual countries, find the specific contact information on the US Embassy web page.
  2. Once you know that the country accepts human remains, the next step is to get the proper paperwork. Some countries require you to have special documents with the Apostille from the Secretary of State.
  3. At the very least, you will probably need a notarized letter from the Funeral Director, a letter from the health department stating that there is no threat from a contagious disease, a cremation certificate, and documentation that you were related to the passed loved one.
  4. Occasionally, you’ll need the documents translated, so make sure to ask the consulate when you contact them if you need to do it.

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