How to Fly with Cremated Remains

Jun 15, 2015 | 1 comment

Today’s guest blog post on the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys website: How to Fly with Cremated Remains

The Descendants cremated remains

Cremated remains from the film The Descendants

With the growing trend toward cremation, there’s a growing trend toward traveling with cremated remains, or cremains, on airlines. These are the current Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules about carrying cremated remains through security.

Passengers may transport cremains as part of their carry-on luggage or, depending on the airline, as checked baggage. Check with your airline prior to heading to the airport when deciding whether to pack those remains in a checked suitcase.

Some airlines require a death certificate or official transit letter from the funeral/cremation provider. As of October 2014, those airlines include Delta, JetBlue and United. Check with your carrier to make sure you know the latest regulations. As of June 2015, Southwest only allows cremains in carry-on luggage.

To go through the TSA security checkpoint, the container must be made of material that allows screeners to see clearly what is inside using an X-ray machine. A temporary container made of lightweight plastic or wood or a cardboard box with a heavy plastic bag liner is considered “security friendly.” Avoid any lead-lined containers.

Documentation from a funeral home is not sufficient to allow a cremation container through a security checkpoint if the urn contents cannot be viewed by X-ray. If a TSA officer cannot determine that the container does not contain a prohibited item, the remains will not be permitted through the checkpoint.

TSA says their officers are not allowed to open a container that the x-ray machine cannot see through, even if a passenger requests the container be opened. However, there have been horror stories of TSA agents opening containers and spilling remains at checkpoints and in checked baggage.

Avoid this emotional affront by using a lightweight temporary container for travel and secure a permanent urn at your final destination. The funeral home or cremation service can advise you on the type of container to select when claiming remains from the crematorium.

USPS Cremated Remains labelCremated remains can be legally shipped by the U.S. Postal Service’s USPS Priority Mail Express® Service, which includes tracking. UPS and FedEx will not knowingly accept cremated remains for shipment. For more details on how to ship cremated remains by U.S. mail, visit this post at The Family Plot Blog.

Gail Rubin, CT, is a death educator Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement. She’s a speaker who uses humor and funny films to attract people to discuss mortality, end-of-life, business communications, estate and funeral planning issues. Author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, she co-authored the new free eBook, Celebrating Life: How to Create Meaningful Memorial Services, with Templates and Tips. She is a regular contributor to the AAEPA blog. Download a free planning form from her website,

A Good Goodbye