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Shipping or Traveling with Cremated Remains

Traveling with Cremated Remains

Consumers flying with cremated remains should bear in mind several important issues before heading to the airport. First, it is not always reliable to place cremated remains in luggage, as the luggage can get lost or damaged. But carrying on a container with cremated remains will have to pass successfully through airport security scanners. Therefore, you should know what kinds of containers are most likely to pass and what won't.

  • Scan-able containers

— cardboard or fiberboard
— cloth
— plastic
— transparent glass
— and probably all wooden ones.

  • Non-scan-able urns

— metal
— stone such as granite
— ceramic

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are not permitted to open non-scan-able urns and check through the contents. Therefore, if you arrive at the airport with cremated remains that won't pass through security, you're in danger of missing your flight.

Other Points to remember

  • If the person is newly deceased and you are actively working with a cremation provider for the arrangements, indicate that you want the cremated remains delivered to you in a non-metalic shipping container, even if your family's plans call for a more elaborate container to be used before final disposition. (You may transport an empty non-scan-able cremation urn separately, but it will be opened and inspected by TSA staff during the security check.)

  • How do you get the cremated remains into the urn your family has chosen for final disposition? While many families will welcome the active involvement of transferring cremated remains into a more memorial container before final ceremonies, some may wish to ask for the help of a local clergy person, consumer group, or funeral home in that locale. Most funeral homes do not have a price on their price list for this service, and there will be no charge. (Those on the list of TSA funeral home "partners" are NOT the only ones available for this service.) Other families find that the so-called "temporary container" is really quite sufficient for final disposition, being deposited in a place unseen or because scattering is planned.

  • Consumers who already have cremated remains in a non-scan-able container but who need to travel with it will have to remove the cremated remains so each can be sent through security separately. Generally, cremated remains will be in a plastic bag inside the urn, making removal a relatively easy task. Other times, there may be a narrow neck on the urn with no plastic bag inside. In that case, it's a good idea to pour the cremated remains into a new plastic bag before boxing. Any simple cardboard box can be used to re-package them before heading for the airport. If removing the cremated remains is too emotional for you, by all means, call on a local funeral provider, member of the clergy, or nonprofit group to assist you with the task.

A Note of Caution: Some of the TSA's funeral home partners may have been lured by promises or hopes that joining the list would provide an opportunity to sell to survivors additional goods and services. (More than half the list are funeral homes owned by Wall Street corporations whose sales people may have monthly revenue quotas.) Those aren't the only funeral homes on the list, and others have surely joined as a public service. You, the consumer, be the judge.

Shipping cremated remains

If you are uncomfortable having the cremated remains taken from an urn, you may wish to consider shipping the urn with contents intact to your final destination. Or perhaps you will not be traveling at all and need to make shipping arrangements anyway.

  • UPS and FedEx will not knowingly accept cremated remains for shipment.
  • Cremated remains may be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, but they must be shipped by Priority Mail Express. Ask for delivery confirmation.They will no longer ship by registered mail.
It would be a good idea to double-box the container, with adequate stuffing between the two boxes to prevent any damage. Make sure the person on the receiving end is expecting the package and can travel to the post office to sign for it. Also, don't just ship cremated remains to a cemetery and expect the cemetery to know what to do with them if you haven't made advance arrangements.

Bad things can happen when good people do nothing.

The Funeral Ethics Organization is a nonprofit corporation.
The Board's Directors serve without pay.