How do you transport human ashes on a plane? What are the rules?

If a family member would like their ashes to be scattered overseas, you may need to navigate the world of travelling with ashes. Or, if a family member passes away overseas and you would like to bring their remains home, you will need to arrange to travel with their ashes.

Transporting human ashes is a little more complicated than just catching a normal flight, but if you follow the rules of your individual airline, you should have no trouble travelling with ashes.

The most common problem you will face is navigating the rules for individual airlines, particularly if you have to change flights. For example, some airlines do not allow passengers to travel with ashes in their checked-in luggage, so it’s important to check before you set off.

If you’re planning a trip with ashes, we’ve gathered and answered some of the most common questions about taking ashes on a plane.

How do you travel with an urn?

The first step is to clear this with your airline. Find out if they will allow you to travel with an urn and the steps you need to take to make it possible. Remember that every airline will have different rules, so don’t assume that all airlines will accept passengers travelling with urns.

All airlines will require you to transport the remains in a container that can be X-Rayed. This means you cannot transport them in a metal container. You will also need to make sure the ashes are securely packaged and well padded so nothing can happen to them while you are passing through the airport and on the plane.

When leaving a country with human remains, you will need to show the death certificate and the certificate of cremation. Every country has their own rules, so you should also check the customs rules for each country before you travel.

Remember that you will also need to comply with the rules for any country that you pass through in transit.

Do you need permission to take ashes on a plane?

Yes, you will need to let your airline know that you are travelling with ashes. You aren’t really asking permission, but rather you are confirming there won’t be an issue. By contacting the airline directly, you can eliminate many of the potential roadblocks. They will be able to advise on the best way to travel with the ashes and also advise on the customs requirements.

You may also need to notify customs that you will be travelling with human remains. If you aren’t sure, contact the embassy of the country you are travelling to and ask them to confirm the procedure.

If you turn up to the gate ready to get on the plane and hope customers will take pity on you, there is a good chance you will be turned away. A little bit of preparation will make your travels much less stressful.

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Should I put the ashes in my hand luggage?

Yes, most airlines recommend travelling with the ashes in your hand luggage and using a non-metallic container so they can be X-Rayed. This will help to speed up the process of getting through customs and will also ensure that the ashes are not lost.

Many airlines will not permit you to travel with ashes in your checked luggage due to the risk of being separated from the ashes.

How much does it cost to fly with ashes?

You shouldn’t have to pay any extra to travel with ashes unless you have to pay for luggage. Since most airlines will ask you to place the ashes in your hand luggage, you may have to take extra luggage to be able to accommodate the ashes.

Always check with your airline before travelling to confirm if they charge extra to travel with ashes. The only other additional costs may be the death certificate and the certificate of cremation if these aren’t provided as standard. You may need to acquire additional copies when you inform the embassy or customs.

Do I have to declare ashes in jewellery?

Cremation jewellery is a necklace to put ashes in. In general, you shouldn’t need to declare ashes in jewellery every time you travel. Most jewellery is not large enough to set off the metal detectors, so it wouldn’t be cause for concern. However, if the jewellery is X-Rayed and this reveals a hidden compartment, you might need to be prepared to explain.

If you are concerned about having your cremation jewellery confiscated at the airport, check with your airline before you fly.

The style of jewellery will also have a big impact on how likely it is to raise eyebrows at customs. For example, cremation jewellery with a glass gemstone should not cause any issues. The amount of ashes contained in every piece of jewellery is very small, so it shouldn’t present an issue.

Our cremation jewellery made from precious metals including silver and gold contains a small compartment to hold the ashes. This compartment is permanently sealed, so it shouldn’t present an issue.

What is the alternative to travelling with ashes?

If you are unable to travel with ashes for any reason, you may be able to courier them to your destination. It is possible to send cremation ashes in the post, but they must be carefully packaged to help protect them.

Every courier company will have their own rules, but you will typically need to meet the following conditions:

  • The ashes should be stored in a sift-proof container and closed securely.
  • The ashes should have strong outer packaging and include plenty of cushioning to protect them from knocks during transit.
  • You will need to include the sender’s name and address and a return address on the packaging.

Specialist couriers are available to help transfer ashes between countries. The ashes are sent by Air Freight and you will need to satisfy all of the same conditions required by customs. In general, someone will have to drop off the ashes at the airport and pick them up on the other side. Door-to-door drop off services can be expensive.