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TSA and Airline requirements for urns and ashes

The loss of loved ones is an emotional experience and adding in the additional stress of air travel with the ashes of the deceased can elevate an already precarious emotional state. Knowing what to expect when you arrive at the airport can make the ordeal a little less taxing mentally and emotionally.

Flying with Cremated Ashes – Know What to Expect

The first step to take is to contact the airline directly to see what their policies are on travelling with cremated human ashes. Some airlines such as Delta give passengers the option of checking the cremated remains as carry on item or as checked baggage like typical luggage. Other airlines require cremated ashes to be sent only via cargo. Contacting the airline will help ensure that you are not held up for unnecessary and preventable reasons.

The carry-on container for cremated ashes varies from airline to airline as well. When travelling with ashes, the ashes need to be in a container of light material such as plastic or wood so that it can pass through the X-ray machine. Metal containers may prevent the screener from seeing what is inside and under no circumstances will the container be opened – even at the request of the customer.

FAQ’s about traveling with cremated ashes and human remains:

How big of a container can I put the ashes in?

The maximum carry-on baggage size for all major airlines is 22” x 14” x 9”. The cremated ashes container cannot be any larger than these measurements. The urn can be stored in your carry-on baggage upon arrival onto the aircraft but will have to be removed from baggage at the security check point and passed through the x-ray.

Do I need any kind of documentation when I travel with ashes?

If you have the Certificate of Cremation it is a good idea to bring that with you to the checkpoint as authentication that the baggage is in fact cremated ashes. Some airlines such as Jet Blue require this documentation as well as a certified copy of death. Not every airline requires this documentation however it does help with validity of the carry-on baggage and its contents. The funeral home is preparing the ashes for travel for me.

What instructions do I give to the funeral director to prepare the ashes for travelling?

Ask that the cremated ashes be place in a non-metallic shipping container. Often times the ashes will be placed in plastic bag inside the container for added protection and the funeral home typically supplies airline supported containers that will pass airport x-ray machines.

What kind of containers acceptable to pass through the x-ray machine?

Scan-able containers include: cardboard, fiberboard, cloth, plastic, transparent glass and wood. Non-scan-able containers are prohibited for carry-on baggage and consist of containers that are metal, stone or ceramic.

I’m leaving tomorrow. Is that enough time to contact the airline?

In most instances, less than 24 hours notice, if any notice, is acceptable. Most airlines have clear protocol on cremated remains air travel. However, each airline is different and it is prudent and time saving to contact the airline directly before travelling with human cremated remains.

I’m uncomfortable sending the urn through the x-ray machine.  Can’t I just carry it through the metal detector?

The TSA is very understanding of the emotional duress those travelling with loved one’s cremated ashes are under. They take the upmost care in handling the cremains as precious cargo. The ashes are sent through the x-ray typically while you are walking through the metal detector and you can be at the end of the conveyor to receive them. If at any point in time the TSA has a question about the contents or the container needs to be sent through, your baggage will be handled with the upmost care and respect.

TSA and Airline Helpful links on transporting cremains

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 to their destination. From acceptable identification to prohibited items, you’ll find it all here.

American Airlines information on traveling with cremated remains, uncremated remains and other shipping requirements with regards to air transport of the deceased. American Airlines can be reached by calling 1-800-433-7300.

Delta At Delta’s website you can learn more about Delta policies and procedures when travelling via Delta Airlines with human cremated remains. Delta Airlines can be reached by 1-800-221-1212.

Frontier Airlines Frontier Airlines takes travelling with the cremated ashes of loved ones very seriously and you can find out more about their policies regarding air travel with ashes here. Contact Frontier Airlines directly by calling 1-800-432-1359.

Jet Blue Visit Jet Blue’s website to learn more about policies and regulations when travelling with human ashes on Jet Blue. Jet Blue requires a certified copy of the death certificate as well as a certified letter from the funeral director or crematorium that performed the cremation. Contact Jet Blue at 1-800-538-2583.

Southwest Southwest Airlines does not accept cremated ashes as checked baggage however will accept cremated remains as carry-on luggage. Click here to learn more about Southwest Airlines air travel with ashes or by calling 1-800-435-9792.

United Find information when traveling with cremated remains on United Airlines here. United requires a certificate of physician or health care officer. Contact Unite by calling 1-800-864-8331.