When flying, whether domestically or internationally, there are many different rules and regulations on what you can bring with you safely. This is especially true for flying with cremated remains. If you’re planning to fly with a loved one’s ashes, you’ll need to not only understand what’s permitted but also prepare yourself with the right steps before travel.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- TSA’s Policy for Cremated Remains
- Delta Airlines’ Policy for Flying With Cremains
- Things to Keep in Mind When Flying With Human or Pet Ashes
Because traveling after losing a loved one is stressful enough, the more you know about what to expect, the better. There are numerous stories about cremated remains being damaged in flight or not allowed through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
To protect your loved one’s ashes, review both TSA’s guidelines and airline-specific guidelines. If you’re flying Delta Airlines, here is their policy for flying with cremated remains.
TSA’s Policy for Cremated Remains
To begin, you’ll need to adhere to TSA’s guidelines for traveling with cremated remains. The airlines follow these rules first and foremost, and they default to TSA on most issues. Whether you bring the ashes with your carry-on bag or have them checked with your luggage, you’ll still need to be aware of TSA’s regulations.
The good news is you are permitted to travel with cremated remains, but there are special instructions you must follow. Because everything needs to go through proper screening, TSA requests you take the following steps to ensure they can confirm you’re carrying ashes:
- Container: TSA needs to clearly identify what’s in the container during an X-ray screening. They recommend using a temporary crematory container made of lightweight material like wood or plastic.
- Documentation: Bring documentation to prove the contents of the containers. This could be a death certificate, documentation from the funeral home, and proof of your relationship with the deceased (ID, birth certificate).
- Checked bags: While you are free to put ashes in a checked bag, TSA recommends keeping these with your carry-on bag since this simplifies the screening process.
It’s important to note that TSA officers are not allowed to open any containers with cremated remains. They do this out of respect for the deceased, so it’s essential to bring what’s known as a TSA-approved urn. If you fail to follow their requirements, you might not be allowed to travel with your loved one’s cremated remains.
Delta Airlines’ Policy for Flying With Cremains
In addition to following TSA’s guidelines, you’ll also need to review the rules for your specific airline. Delta Airlines considers cremated remains to be special baggage, and you’re allowed to place cremated remains within either your carry-on or checked bags.
However, Delta Airlines also requests any passengers flying with cremated remains to bring some form of documentation. This could be either the death or cremation certificate. In addition, it must be able to pass through the TSA’s X-ray security system.
While it’s possible that Delta Airlines and TSA might not ask for any additional documentation or special inspections, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Paying close attention to these requirements before you fly will make the experience less stressful.
Things to Keep in Mind When Flying With Human or Pet Ashes
If you choose to fly with human or pet ashes, preparation is key. These tips below will help you simplify the process from start to finish.
Check for a special bereavement fare
When flying with cremated remains, you might qualify for Delta’s bereavement fare policy. Many airlines, Delta included, have special discounts and fee-waivers available for those flying after losing a loved one.
Whether you’re attending a cremation ceremony or a funeral, you might be able to get some extra savings to ease the burden of this time.
Arrive early for your flight
When you’re flying with any type of special cargo, like cremated remains, it’s important to give yourself extra time. Both your checked luggage and carry-ons need to go through the X-ray scanner, and this might take longer if your cremated remains need extra inspecting.
To be safe, make sure you leave extra time when flying with any human or pet ashes. While it’s unlikely you’ll need it, you don’t want to risk missing your flight.
If there is a situation in which you’re not permitted to travel with your cremated remains, the extra time gives you a way to find an alternative. You might choose to mail the ashes or leave them with someone you trust.
Keep the urn with your carry-on bag
While it’s true you can check your urn in your checked luggage, it’s a good idea to keep it with you. TSA recommends all travelers carry cremated remains in carry-on baggage since it ensures they can keep a close eye on it.
There have been stories of ashes leaking into checked bags, and that’s not something you want to worry about. If you carry them with you, there’s no concern about the ashes spilling or getting lost.
Ensure your urn is sealed
As we mentioned above, leaks do happen. Travel is stressful enough, and you don’t want to worry about losing any ashes during your flight. TSA will not open any urns or cremated remains out of respect, so feel free to seal your urn.
If you use a temporary urn (as TSA recommends), be sure to seal the ashes inside. You can use a plastic bag, or talk to your funeral home about the best way to secure them during your flight.
Tip: If you're looking for something very unique to hold a loved one's ashes after you transport them, you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence. You submit a design idea or sketch, then the company designs and 3D prints your urn, so you get a 100% unique container.
Ask your funeral home for documentation
A lot of people may get confused about what type of documentation is enough to travel with cremated remains. Delta requires a cremation or death certificate. While you might be asked to show any form of documentation to get on a plane, it’s a good idea to bring it anyway.
Your funeral home can help you arrange any necessary paperwork. Communicate to them that you’re traveling by air, and they can help you with the proper documentation. If you’re flying abroad, you’ll need to check local guidelines to make sure you have any foreign paperwork as well.
Mail your cremated remains
Last but not least, it’s sometimes easier to just mail the cremated remains. When you mail the remains, you don’t have to worry about TSA regulations or airline rules. It’s a lot easier to simply send them through the mail like you would anything else.
The US Postal Service is the only way to legally send ashes, whether you’re mailing them domestically or internationally. You can ship the ashes in any type of urn as long as it’s sent Priority Express Mail. When mailing your ashes, talk to the post office representative to learn the best way to secure them inside.
Preparing to Travel with Cremated Remains
There are a number of reasons why you might travel with a loved one’s cremated remains. If you traveled for the funeral or if you’re planning on scattering their ashes somewhere meaningful, you might find yourself needing to take these ashes on a plane. You may even be planning to use some of the ashes to make a memorial diamond with a company like Eterneva.
Whatever the reason, if you do travel with a loved one's ashes, make sure you follow these rules and regulations above.
Delta Airlines makes it simple to travel with your loved one’s cremated ashes, but you’ll still want to take extra steps to keep everything safe and secure. Losing a loved one is hard enough. Don’t let the stress of arranging travel add to that burden.
1. “Cremated Remains.” TSA: What Can I Bring? TSA.gov.