Losing a loved one can be incredibly tough, and the added stress of flying with their cremated remains can make things even more emotional.

So, you no doubt want to know what the process is for bringing ashes on your next flight.

According to TSA regulations, ashes can be packed in both your carry on and checked bags, though airlines will have their own individual policies when it comes to checking in cremated remains.

You should also travel with the cremation permit that accompanies the ashes, as well as a certified copy of the death certificate as an extra precaution.

Bring Ashes in Your Carry on Bag

Not only are you allowed to bring ashes on a plane in your carry on, but it is also what is recommended to protect the contents.

Ashes must be screened, with a TSA officer clearly being able to determine that the container the ashes are in does not contain a prohibited item.

If this cannot be ascertained, the remains will not be permitted.

It’s therefore recommended to fly with a cremation permit, as well as a certified copy of the death certificate.

It’s vital that the ashes are in a non-opaque container because TSA officers will not open the container.

As mentioned, if a TSA officer cannot clearly determine what is inside the container, the ashes will not be allowed to pass through airport security.

Bring Ashes in Your Checked Bag

Depending on the airline, you may be able to bring ashes on a plane in your checked bags, though it is not recommended.

There have been many cases of cremated remains being spilled inside checked bags due to the rough nature of how checked bags are handled, both by machines and baggage handlers.

Stricter Requirements When Flying Internationally

If you’re flying internationally, the requirements can differ by each country.

So, it’s recommended that you check with your local funeral director who will have more knowledge on the matter and contact the Consulate and/or embassy of the country you will be flying to.

If you want to travel with ashes to a foreign destination, you may need:

  • A cremation certificate
  • A notarized letter from the Funeral Director
  • Special documents with the Apostille from the Secretary of State
  • A letter from the health department confirming that there is no threat from a contagious disease
  • Translated documents

Airline Polices for Flying With Ashes

Not many airlines will allow you to pack ashes in a container in your checked bags, though, as mentioned, this is not recommended anyway.

All of the major air carriers, including Delta, Southwest, American Airlines, and United, will allow you to bring ashes on a plane in your carry on.

How to Pack Ashes for Air Travel

So you don’t run into any problems at the airport, you should do the following when it comes to packing ashes on your next flight:

  • Purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container or urn.
  • The container or urn must be made of a material that generates an opaque image (i.e. avoid metal, stone and ceramic containers).
  • Using a container or urn made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic is best.
  • Place the ashes in the container/urn before you get to the airport
  • Make sure to bring the cremation permit, as well as a certified copy of the death certificate as an extra precaution.
  • Place the container in the screening bin, so it can be screened by the X-ray machine

Bringing Ashes on a Plane is Inexpensive

The cost to bring ashes on a plane will depend on whether you’re flying domestically or internationally.

If you’re flying domestically, just the cremation permit that accompanies the cremated remains is necessary.

Though not required, it’s a good idea to also obtain a certified copy of the death certificate.

If you’re flying internationally, you may need to obtain more documents.

In any case, these documents shouldn’t cost any more than $25, so bringing ashes on a plane is relatively inexpensive regardless if you’re flying domestically or internationally.

You Can Ship Cremated Remains

You are allowed to ship cremated remains, but only through the USPS.

This is because in the USA, the USPS is the only legal method to ship cremated ashes.

Cremated Remains may only be shipped using Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail Express International.

UPS, FedEx, DHL and other mail carriers cannot be used and will refuse to ship any ashes too once they find out the contents you want to ship.

When shipping ashes internationally, the USPS can only be used if the designated country does not prohibit the contents and when Priority Mail Express International service is used.

The Same Rules Apply for Pet Ashes

You can bring pet ashes on a plane – and the same rules apply as with human cremated remains.

You should obtain confirmation of their death from a vet, along with confirmation of their cremation.

The same rules for passing through TSA security also apply.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).