What You Need to Know About Transporting a Deceased Loved One

transporting-coffinAs we consider our end of life options, many of us find that there is a special place where we would like our body to be buried, such as next to a previously deceased spouse, or in family plot. In today’s very mobile culture, this final resting place may be across town, or across the country, or even around the world from where we find ourselves at the end of our lives.

If this describes the wishes of your recently deceased loved one, you may find yourself facing the daunting process of transporting their remains to the final resting place which they have requested. This will be an emotionally trying process, taking place during a time of stress. To help ease the distress of this process as much as possible, we have put together the following guide for transporting a coffin. If you or your loved one has chosen cremation as the means of taking care of their remains, please see our guide to transporting human ashes for additional information.

Who Can I Contact for Assistance?

Many funeral homes across the United States and around the world provide funeral shipping and offer a full service package. They may be able to coordinate the process on your behalf and provide safe, respectful transportation of your loved one. Use the internet or contact the cargo divisions of a major airline to find a reputable shipper, and be sure to read online reviews to help you finalize your selection.

What is the cost?

Pricing will vary depending on your chosen method of transportation. Most funeral shipping companies offer both land and air options.

The cost of transporting remains internationally may be in excess of $10,000. Domestically in the United States, the cost of transportation is typically in the neighborhood of $5,000 when using a funeral home that specializes in moving remains.

If the cost of flying the body of your loved one is too great a burden, and the option of cremation is still open, many funeral providers who specialize in shipping may be able to help you arrange for the body to be cremated at the place of their death. Transporting cremated remains rather than a full size coffin offers significant savings in both space and cost. While making these types of decisions is certainly unpleasant, the savings achieved by transporting the smaller, lighter container can help to offset the price of a more elaborate memorial service, or other funeral costs.

What if my Loved One Dies While Out of the Country?

Contact an international funeral shipping provider. Companies specializing in this service will make the transportation arrangements for you, collecting the deceased and moving the body to a funeral home. These firms understand the steps necessary to meet their state’s or nation’s legal requirements, as well as those required by the receiving country. They also supervise the transfer of the deceased between flights when necessary.

A reputable funeral shipping provider will book international flights, and will have an established relationship with the necessary airlines as a Known Shipper. They are often able to negotiate discounted rates and confirm availability very quickly, with the understanding that time is of the essence when shipping human remains.

For an example of a company’s policy on shipping human remains, see Southwest Airlines Cargo. Note that only Known Shippers are eligible to use these services.

The specialized funeral shipping team will work with the receiving country or state funeral provider to ensure that the transportation process is as respectful and sensitive as possible.

What About Shipping by Land?

If the burial is to take place somewhere other than the place of death, but within the continental United States, you may wish to explore your options for land transport. If your loved one is only to be moved a short distance, the funeral home may be able to provide this service. Some will charge mileage rate add ons and you should inquire about individual providers’ policies before signing any contract.

For longer distances, a good funeral home will have a list of recommended carriers that specialize in transporting human remains. The funeral home should book the carrier and take care of this process for you, although you should review pricing carefully and contact the carrier directly if you feel the price quoted by the funeral home is not right. If a deceased loved one is not being embalmed in their place of death (or at all), the funeral home should recommend and provide appropriate refrigerated transportation, such as a refrigerated container, or packing the remains in ice for transport.

If the body is embalmed before transport there should be no refrigeration needed. However, if your loved one’s body will be crossing state lines, because each state has its own unique set of laws regarding the handling and transport of human remains, be sure to check regulations in both the originating and destination states.

If you need to transport your loved one many miles, consider the benefits of air transportation of human remains. This, again, is governed by airline regulations.

Cremated remains can be transported by the U.S. Postal Service so long as they are correctly packaged. Please see the linked blog post for further information and details.

Can I Fly With Cremated Remains?

The short answer is yes, you may fly with cremated remains. However, the TSA has strict guidelines you must follow. Please see this guide to the transportation of cremated remains for more information. The web page outlining TSA guidelines for flying with cremated remains is off line currently and presumably under review, but if you have further questions regarding TSA policies you may phone the Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673.

Individual airlines will also have specific guidelines, which can be found on their websites.

Some major airlines offer discounted rates for bereavement travel, so make sure to check with your airline or travel agent.

Another resource is TrustUA, a specialized service specifically designed to assist in the transportation of human remains shipments. “Our special services team is trained to address all travel-related issues you may face and can arrange to transport your shipment immediately. All funeral shipments are given special priority, and bereavement fares may be available to family members or escorts accompanying the shipment.   

Human remains shipments can be transported to cities served by United around the globe. And, through our partnerships with other airlines, we can ship to virtually any location in the world. Wherever the destination may be, we treat human remains with compassion during every point in the journey.”

Chartered Jet

For those wishing to more quickly transport a deceased loved one, chartered plane services are another option. This is typically the most expensive option available, with costs running up to $20,000 or more. A chartered jet can transport your loved one anywhere there is a landing strip long enough for a safe touchdown.

If time is too short, distances too great, or locations too inconvenient, a charter service such as AirNet can provide the service necessary to help your loved one complete the final leg of their journey.

For more help on items to handle after a loved one has passed, take a look at the funeral and estate planning section of our blog.


Funeral and Estate Planning

3 Responses to “What You Need to Know About Transporting a Deceased Loved One”

  1. From Bonnie Bellefontaine

    Wanting to have by brothers sealed cremains by funeral director in Canton Georgia, USA,sent to me by mail to my home in Toronto, Canada, I have my deceased brothers death certificate, what is needed to have his cremains sent to me safely,thank you,Bonnie Bellefontaine

  2. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Hi Bonnie –
    Cremated remains can be transported by the U.S. Postal Service so long as they are correctly packaged. We have outlined information about it here: https://decorative-urns.com/cremation-blog/about-cremation/how-to-transport-cremated-remains-a-guide/
    and, here is th USPS official guide to packaging and shipping cremated remains, https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://about.usps.com/publications/pub139.pdf
    Page 5 outlines shipping internationally.

    And finally, the funeral director should be able to assist you with specific questions.

  3. From Sariah Meagle

    My grandfather died in another country while vacationing and my parents want to bring home his remains. It was explained here that there are guidelines that needed to be followed transporting the remains. Moreover, it’s advisable to contact trusted businesses when planning to have a mortuary transport.

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