When a loved one is cremated, there’s often a need to transport their ashes to another location. Flying with cremains is a perfectly valid option, and nearly all airlines will allow travelers to fly with filled urns. However, it’s important to be aware of the TSA rules that govern transporting cremains before you fly in order to avoid complications. These are provided below.
The TSA says nothing about where cremains should be carried. This is left up to individual airlines. All will allow human and pet cremains in carry-on luggage, but some restrict passengers from checking it under the plane. Unless you check with your chosen airline, it’s best to keep the urn in your carry-on luggage.
This also reduces the risk of damage to the urn, since it would be in your possession throughout the flight.
X-ray ready means that the x-rays can pass through the container to reveal the contents inside. Because an airline will not open a funeral urn under any circumstances, their x-ray machines are the only way they can peer inside. If x-rays can’t penetrate, they won’t let you bring the urn on the plane.
Generally wood, paper, cardboard, other organic materials, and plastic will pass x-rays. But if you want to make absolutely certain the urn you choose is okay for use in x-ray machines you can buy urns specifically labeled “Flight Ready”.
In most cases, the urn you’ll travel with will be a temporary one. Once you arrive at your destination you can transfer the ashes to their final, decorative urn.
The last thing you want is to suffer a spillage accident while traveling. Because the TSA won’t ever require you to open your urn, there’s no good reason not to have it tightly sealed.
In general, a successful x-ray scan is all that’s needed to deliver your ashes through security. However, it can’t hurt to have an official death certificate and certificate of cremation with you just in case you encounter issues. This isn’t a requirement, but it can prove helpful.
If you’re transporting cremains out of the country it’s always a good idea to contact the embassy for the country you’re traveling to for information about any special steps they require. Every country has its own rules, and you want to make sure you’ve taken the proper precautions.
Your funeral director may also have some experience in this matter, so it’s worth talking to them as well.
Taking your loved one’s ashes on a flight is expensive, particularly if you don’t actually need to go where the ashes are going. Shipping the ashes is often a better option. It’s perfectly legal to ship ashes nationally and internationally as long as you ship Priority Mail Express with USPS and follow their guidelines.
Your ashes will arrive safely at their destination within one to two days and you’ll spend significantly less money to get them there.
If you don’t need to fly, save yourself the hassle and the money. Send the ashes through the mail.