TSA and Airline requirements for urns and ashes

TSA And Airline Regulations And Tips For Transporting Ashes

The loss of those we love is an emotional experience and the added stress of air travel with the cremated ashes of the deceased can have a profound effect on your emotional state.  It is legal to transport the cremated ashes across the United States and internationally but every airline has different rules and regulations regarding transporting cremated ashes.

Our Guide for Traveling with Cremated Ashes was created to inform families on what they need to know about Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations and airline regulations for transporting the ashes of a loved one domestically and internationally.  We also have contact information and helpful links for the TSA, the top 10 major domestic airlines and international embassy contact information.

The Guide also gives complete information on alternative ways to transport cremains including information on shipping cremated ashes domestically and internationally.  Knowing what to expect can make the ordeal a little less taxing mentally and emotionally on individuals and families.

TSA Regulations And Guidelines For Transporting Ashes

The TSA regulations and guidelines for transporting cremated ashes apply to both domestic and international travel. However, it is important to check with the airline you are flying on and, for international travel, with the country's embassy to which you will be traveling. Each airline and each country has their own set of regulations for transporting cremated ashes that passengers must adhere to.

The TSA understands that traveling with the ashes of a loved one can be highly stressful and emotional.  Here is what travelers need to know with regards to transporting their loved ones ashes via domestic travel.

5 Things to Know About TSA Regulations For Transporting Ashes

1. Ashes may be transported in carry on bags or checked bags.

TSA allows passengers to transport cremated ashes in carry-on bags and in checked baggage.  However, it is important to note that some airlines do not allow cremated ashes in checked bags.  Check with the airline before traveling regarding their rules and regulations on traveling with cremated ashes.

2. Have documentation in order to be checked by the agent.

The TSA recommends having one or more of the following pieces of documentation:

  • Death certificate and/or a certificate of cremation
  • Document from the funeral home stating that the urn contains the cremated ashes of the deceased
  • Proof of your relationship to the deceased such as a birth certificate, a copy of the obituary, etc

Airlines may require additional documentation so check with the airline before traveling regarding their documentation requirements.

3. A temporary container or travel urn is encouraged.

Cremated ashes that are being transported by carry-on bags must pass through security screening.  TSA must be able to clearly determine what is inside the container in order to clear the container for travel.  Travel urns are a minimal expense and meet all airline and TSA guidelines which assures a quick and easy screening process for passengers.

4. TSA may try alternative measures if they cannot determine what is in the container.

If the screening agent cannot determine what is in the container, they may try alternative measures such as asking the passenger to remove the cremated ashes from the urn and sending the urn and the ashes separately through the X-ray machines.  At no point in time with TSA agents tamper or open a container carrying cremated ashes - even if asked to do so by the passenger.  It is illegal for airport personnel to open any container that holds cremated ashes.

5. When secondary measures do not clear the ashes of a prohibited item.

If secondary measures do not clear the ashes of containing a prohibited item, the ashes will not be allowed through security and on the aircraft.

TSA Helpful Links

Transportation Safety Administration - TSA  The Transportation Safety Administration traveler information page will give air travelers all the guidelines and regulations they need to know and go on their destination.  Passengers will find information regarding acceptable identification, prohibited items, prescreening, transporting cremated remains, travel tips and more.

TSA Toll Free Number 1-866-289-9673

Ways To Travel With Cremated Remains

Domestic Airline Regulations and Guidelines For Transporting Ashes

Every airline has their own individual set of rules and regulations that passengers must adhere to when transporting ashes domestically. The airlines regulations are in addition to the regulations set forth by the TSA.

5 Things To Know About Airline Regulations For Transporting Ashes Domestically

We’ve created a list of things that families need to know before traveling with the ashes of the deceased.  A little bit of preplanning and preparation can save you time and emotional stress when you arrive at the airport.

1. Call the airline.

Most airlines have clear protocol on transporting cremated ashes.  Some airlines allow cremated ashes in carry-on bags only and some require advance notice that a passenger is transporting ashes.  Call the airline directly and ask about their restrictions on transporting ashes. Contact information for the top 10 domestic airlines can be found below.

2. Get your documentation together.

Much like the TSA, airlines have certain rules when it comes to documentation.  Some airlines may only require a death certificate while others may want proof of relationship to the deceased.  Make sure that all of your documentation is in order and that you are clear on what the airline requires.

3. Plan to arrive early.

Airlines typically suggest travelers arrive 60 minutes before the scheduled time of departure if you are not checking luggage and 90 minutes if you are checking luggage for domestic travel.  They recommend that passengers arrive 1/2 hour earlier than normal when transporting cremated ashes.  Allowing for extra times allows families to not have to rush through the screening process and answer any questions TSA agents may have.

4. Check in with the airline upon arrival.

Airlines typically require passengers to check in with the airline before heading to screening.  This allows them to go over your paperwork and make sure everything is in order.  Any questions or concerns can often be caught ahead of time, allowing for a smooth screening process with TSA.

5. Make sure the urn meets airline and TSA requirements.

It is essential that the cremation urn carrying the ashes of the deceased meets the following requirements:

  • Size:  The maximum carry-on baggage for all major airlines is 22” x 14” x 9”.  The cremated ashes container cannot be any larger than these measurements.
  • Scannable:  The container that holds the cremated ashes must be scannable.

Buying airline and TSA friendly cremation urns gives families added assurance that the cremated ashes of their loved one will be safely stored and transported. View our complete selection of travel urns and wood urns.

Airline Helpful Links

Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines allows customers to bring cremated remains of humans and pets on board as a carry-on or checked baggage.  Passengers must have a death certificate signed by a physician or health care officer.  1-800-225-2752

American Airlines American airlines does not require special documentation and cremated ashes of a human or a pet are treated as a passenger’s carry-on bag.  1-800-433-7300

Delta Airlines Delta Airlines allows passengers to carry-on or check cremated ashes of humans and pets.  A death certificate or a certificate of cremation is required.  1-800-221-1212

Frontier Airlines Frontier Airlines does allow passengers to bring cremated ashes of humans and pets by carry-on or by checked baggage.  1-801-401-900

Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines lets passengers bring cremated ashes of humans and pets by carry-on or checked baggage.  1-877-426-4537

JetBlue Airways When traveling with cremated ashes of humans, JetBlue Airways requires a certified copy of the death certificate and a certified document from he funeral director or crematorium that performed the cremation.  The urn is considered a special item and does not count as the personal item or carry-on item of the passenger.  If bringing the cremated ashes of a pet, documentation from the veterinarian is preferable.

Southwest Airlines Southwest Airlines does not accept cremated ashes as checked baggage however the ashes of humans and pets can be brought onboard as a carry-on.  1-888-922-9525

United Airlines Cremated ashes of humans and pets must be transported as carry-on baggage on United Airlines.  Appropriate documentation such as a death certificate is recommended for TSA screening.  1-800-864-8331

International Tips For Transporting Ashes

Transporting cremated ashes internationally takes a little more planning than domestic transport of cremated remains.  Each country has their own set of rules that travelers must adhere to when it comes to transporting ashes into their country.

1. Contact the country's embassy that you will be traveling to.

You need to contact the embassy of the country you will be traveling to find out if they will accept cremated remains.  Contact information for individual countries can be found at US Embassy web page.  The top 20 countries visited by the US embassies are listed below.


U.S. Embassy in Nassau

Phone: 242-322-1181


U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Phone: (86-10) 8531-3000


U.S. Embassy in Bogota

Phone: (+57) (1) 275-2000

Costa Rica

U.S. Embassy in San Jose

Phone: [506] 2519-2000

Dominican Republic

U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo

Phone: (809) 567-7775


U.S. Embassy in Paris

Phone: [33] (1)43122222


U.S. Embassy in Berlin

Phone: +49-30-8305-0

Hong Kong


U.S. Embassy in New Delhi

Phone: 011-91-11-2419-8000


U.S. Embassy in Dublin

Phone: +353 1 668-8777


U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Phone: 02-630-4000


U.S. Embassy in Rome

Phone: (+39) 06.46741


U.S. Embassy in Kingston

Phone: 876-702-6000


U.S. Embassy in Tokyo

Phone: 03-3224-5000


U.S. Embassy in The Hague

Phone: +31 70 310-2209


U.S. Embassy in Madrid

Phone: 91-587-2200


U.S. Embassy in Bern

Phone: 031 357 70 11


American Institute in Taiwan

Phone: (+886) (02) 2162-2000


U.S. Embassy in Bangkok

Phone: +66-2-205-4000

United Kingdom

U.S. Embassy in London

Phone: [44] (0)20 7499-9000

2. Ask the funeral home.

Most funeral homes have information on international transporting of cremated ashes.  You should always follow up with the receiving country’s embassy but the funeral home can be a great initial source of information.

Alternative Ways To Transport Cremains

Sometimes transporting the ashes by way of air travel is not an option for families due to constraints such as budget, availability to travel or it’s something they simply are not comfortable with.  Families may choose to ship the cremated ashes of a loved one instead of transporting the urns via air travel.  UPS and FedEx do not permit the shipping of cremated ashes however the United States Postal Service does.

Domestic Shipping Of Cremated Ashes Via United States Postal Service

1. Ashes must be shipped through Priority Mail Express.

Standard mail and standard priority mail are not an option. Ashes may only be shipped via Priority Mail Express service.

2. The cremated ashes must be packed in a siftproof container.

A siftproof container is one that will not allow loose material to sift or leak out during transport.  The United States Postal Service (USPS) also recommends that the siftproof container then be placed in a sealed plastic bag. The cremains must be packaged as required in 451.3b and Packing Instruction C.

3. Padding around the inner container is strongly suggested.

Air bubble wrap or foam peanuts can be used to surround the container and help keep the container stable during transit.

4. The outer container should be very durable and siftproof.

A plastic bag  or lining can be added to the interior of the outer container in order to give added assurance of leakage during transit of the ashes.  Add additional padding on the bottom and top of the inner container when it is placed in the outer container or shipping box to prevent the contents from shifting.  Add a piece of paper that contains the sender’s and the addressee’s contact information and address in the event a postal employee needs to identify the package due to the label becoming lost or unreadable.

5. Clearly identify the contents of the container on the address side next to the shipping label.

Use Label 139 for Postal Service Cremated Remains.  The label is available at your local post office.

6. Verify and recheck the address.

Verify that the shipping address is correct and that there is no missing information.

International Shipping Of Cremated Ashes Via United States Postal Service

1. Cremated ashes may only be shipped internationally when permitted by the destination country.

It is the mailer's responsibility to make sure that the destination country accepts cremated ashes. Find information on country conditions for mailing.

2. Cremated remains may only be shipped internationally via Priority Mail Express International.

Only Priority Mail Express International may be used to ship cremated remains internationally.

3. The contents must be identified on the customs declaration form.

When filling out the declaration form for the destination country, the form must clearly state that the package contains cremated remains.

4. The cremated ashes must be packed in a siftproof container.

A siftproof container is one that will not allow loose material to sift or leak out during transport.  The USPS also recommends that the siftproof container then be placed in a sealed plastic bag. The cremains must be packaged as required in 451.3b and Packing Instruction C.

5. Clearly identify the contents of the container on the address side next to the shipping label.  

Use Label 139 for Postal Service Cremated Remains.  The label is available at your local post office.

6. Verify and recheck the address.

Verify that the shipping address is correct and that there is no missing information.

Shipping Helpful Links

Publication 139 This publication from the USPS will take you step-bu-step on how to package and ship cremated remains domestically and internationally.

Contact the USPS at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Shipping the cremated ashes may cause some stress about being apart from the ashes and there are some ways that may help alleviate any stress.  Families may choose to keep a memory of the deceased with them - a favorite sweatshirt they always wore or a ball cap they were never without.  Memorial coins or photo engraved jewelry can be engraved with the image of their loved one and provide a visual reminder of the deceased.  This reinforces the connection while there is temporary separation from the ashes during shipment.

Families may also elect to hold onto a small amount of the cremated ashes.  Keepsake urns are small and hold anywhere from 2 to 6 cubic inches of cremains and give families a way to not be completely without their loved one.  Cremation jewelry is another alternative that affords families a way to hold onto a very small portion of the ashes (a pinch of cremated remains) and keep that connection in the interim.

At Everlasting Memories, we want to help make transporting the cremated ashes of your loved one as easy as we possibly can for families.  Our temporary travel urn assures families that their loved one’s cremains will not only be transported safely and securely but that the urn will also meet all airline and TSA requirements.  We can ship the urn immediately so that families don’t have to wait to make their travel plans.

Using the travel urn is easy.  Simply place the polyethylene bag containing your loved one’s ashes in the urn and close the top.

For a limited time save 20% on our temporary travel urn by using the code TRAVEL.

Updated September 7, 2019 by Frances Kay.