There are various reasons you may one day need to transport the cremated remains of a loved one on a plane. If that ever happens, you need to research your airline’s policies for flying with cremated remains.
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Because many airlines categorize cremated remains as special luggage, they usually will have certain criteria passengers need to meet if they plan to bring their loved ones’ ashes on board.
Perhaps you’ll one day need to bring cremated remains with you on a Southwest Airlines flight. If you expect that might happen, this guide will help you better understand Southwest Airlines’ cremated remains policies.
It will also share some general tips worth keeping in mind if you’re flying with cremated remains, regardless of airline.
Southwest Airlines’ Cremated Remains Policy Explained
Southwest Airlines’ policies for flying with cremated remains are relatively straightforward.
They consist of a few basic points, summarized below:
- Passengers can not pack cremated remains with their checked baggage. However, under certain conditions, Southwest Airlines will allow passengers to bring cremated remains along with them as carry-on luggage on both domestic and international flights.
- Southwest Airlines recommends that passengers traveling with cremated remains store them in temporary plastic or cardboard containers.
- Southwest Airlines customers can also choose to ship their loved ones’ cremated remains to their destinations via Southwest Airlines Cargo directly from the crematorium. You can book this service up to seven days in advance, but you should book it at least 24 hours before departure, as Southwest Airlines recommends arranging the service as far ahead of time as possible.
You may still have specific questions about Southwest Airlines’ policies regarding transporting cremated remains. If so, you can call the Southwest Support Customer Care Center at 1-888-922-9525 to learn more.
They will likely be able to answer your questions about related topics, such as Southwest Airlines’ bereavement fare as well.
Note that memorial jewelry and memorial diamonds are not considered the same as open cremated remains. Since these are secured or transformed into diamonds using a provider like Eterneva, you don't need to follow any extra steps to fly with them.
More Tips for Flying With Cremains or Urns
These tips don’t merely apply to Southwest Airlines. Instead, they’re basic tips you should know if you ever need to fly with cremated remains.
Use the proper urn
It’s best to research an airline’s specific policies regarding the types of containers they will allow passengers to store cremated remains in when bringing them on a plane. That said, regardless of which airline you choose to fly with, you’ll also need to consider the TSA’s policies as well.
That’s why you should research TSA-approved urns when looking for a proper storage container. Certain urn manufacturers create products specifically designed to meet the TSA’s standards.
Get there early
There’s a good possibility TSA agents may want to investigate your carry-on baggage if they notice cremated remains and can’t immediately determine what they are. Even if you tell them they’re just the ashes of a deceased loved one, they might want to investigate the matter themselves.
Thus, it’s a good idea to set aside extra time to get through security. Traveling with cremated remains can already be a stressful experience, as you’re likely mourning the passing of a loved one. You don’t want to add to your stress by worrying about missing your flight because you didn’t arrive early enough.
Even if you’ve purchased a container that meets both the TSA and your chosen airline’s standards according to their written policies, just as you still might have more questions for an airline due to special circumstances, so too might you also have additional questions for the TSA.
If so, you can call them at 866-289-9673. The TSA also has an online contact form and field traveler questions via Twitter and Facebook Messenger.
Have the right documentation
The TSA might request documentation authenticating your cremains. Keep this documentation readily available when you’re going through security and you could save quite a lot of time and stress.
- A death certificate and/or certificate of cremation
- The official funeral home or crematorium records confirming the contents of your package are genuine cremated remains
- Some form of documentation proving you’re related to the deceased
Because an individual airline may have additional requirements, you may want to check with them directly.
Ask an expert when flying internationally
Most of the tips here apply when you’re flying with cremated remains on a domestic flight. However, just as policies for flying with cremated remains vary from airline to airline, so too do they vary from country to country.
Discuss this issue with a funeral director if you need to bring cremated remains with you on an international flight. They may be able to answer your questions.
If not, they can likely direct you to another professional expert on this topic who can.
Practice sealing the cremains thoroughly
This may seem like a simple tip, but it’s one worth remembering!
It’s not likely you have much experience flying with cremated remains. That means you might not have much experience using the types of containers and/or urns you’d likely store cremated remains in when bringing them on a plane.
You don’t want to run the risk of your loved one’s cremains spilling out because you didn’t properly seal the container. To avoid this, practice thoroughly sealing them ahead of time, and carefully choose where to place them in your bag so that they’ll be as safe as possible.
If you've chosen a custom urn from Foreverence or you're working with an urn provider, talk to them about how to travel with the urn or cremated remains. They might have temporary urn containers that are designed specifically for airline travel.
If you can, and you know the risks, consider checked baggage
Remember, Southwest Airlines’ policies for flying with cremated remains don’t allow you to include them with your checked luggage, so if you’re flying with Southwest, you can skip this tip.
That said, some airlines will allow you to keep a loved one’s cremated remains in your checked luggage. Additionally, the TSA’s policies for checking cremated remains are much more lenient than their policies for bringing them in your carry-on bags. If you’re flying with an airline that allows you to store cremated remains in your checked luggage, and you’re worried about problems with security because of a misunderstanding regarding the TSA’s carry-on policies, this might be an option you’d consider.
However, you need to thoroughly understand the risks involved in storing cremated remains in checked baggage before deciding this is the best choice. Checked baggage can jostle around when a plane is moving. This potentially puts your loved one’s remains at risk of spillage or damage. There are also instances when airlines lose checked baggage.
These are risks you may be willing to take if you don’t feel comfortable with your understanding of the relevant carry-on policies. You need to evaluate each option to decide which is right for you.
Consider other options
This tip may not be valuable to everyone depending on their specific needs and circumstances.
That said, if you’re stressed about the idea of flying with cremated remains, you may want to research other options for transporting them to their intended destination. For example, you could ship cremated remains with USPS.
Southwest Airlines: Flying with Cremated Remains
Hopefully, this general guide answered some of your important questions about flying with cremated remains via Southwest Airlines.
Still, it’s crucial to remember you can always contact the airline and/or TSA directly if you feel you need additional clarification.
If you're looking for more resources on cremated remains, read our guides on pet cremation and if you get all of the ashes after cremation.
- Burns, Bob. “Ways to Travel with Cremated Remains.” Transportation Security Administration, 10 July 2018, www.tsa.gov/blog/2018/07/10/ways-travel-cremated-remains
- “Special Luggage.” Southwest, Southwest airlines Co., www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/baggage/special-luggage-pol.html