“Transportation of Cremated Remains”
As the cremation rate in North America continues to rise, so has the requirement for the transportation of cremated remains. Whether it be to a family member or some other final destination, the shipment or conveyance of an urn or container containing cremated remains has attracted the attention of not only the bereavement sector but also those agencies responsible for transportation security.
There are a variety of transportation options available to family members, funeral homes or crematories that have been asked to ship or convey a loved ones cremated remains to another location. These include mail, use of a courier service, shipment on an airline as cargo and conveyance by a family member, either as hand baggage or checked in.
Mailing the urn or container is the riskiest option and has been the greatest source of problems for funeral homes and crematories in the past. Although the most cost effective transportation option, it is also the slowest as it can take 1 or 2 weeks before the urn reaches its final destination. If mailing the cremated remains is your preferred choice you may wish to consider sending the urn by registered mail. Although slightly more expensive you will take comfort in knowing the urn will be delivered in person to the consignee and there will be a signed record of its receipt.
It wasn’t too long ago when courier services and taxis refused to transport urns in fear they would be lost and the drivers and companies would be faced with large lawsuits. Today that has all changed. Most couriers will ship cremated remains by road or air anywhere in the world. There is one company, International Courier, based in Toronto that specializes in worldwide shipment of urns and will guarantee “door to door” service. Although this service is more expensive than the other options, with prices ranging from $400 to $800 depending on the final destination, it is considered the best option when shipping to foreign countries, particularly, when there may be a language difference. For more information about this service call their toll free number 1-888-274-7874.
Shipping cremated remains on an airline as cargo is the preferred choice for many funeral homes and crematories, particularly for destinations within Canada and the U.S. This is because, upon its receipt, airlines assign a waybill number to the urn so that it may be tracked throughout its travel route. Once the urn arrives at the specified location the person or company to which it is consigned must then go to the airport to pick it up. Therefore, there is no fear of losing the urn as both the consignor and consignee are able to monitor its location during its transportation. This option also ensures no one else other than the designated consignee or receiving funeral home or cemetery will take custody of the urn.
The final option is the conveyance of the urn by a family member either as hand baggage or checked in. As the urn and its contents may weigh upwards of 8 to 10 pounds depending on the type of urn or container chosen, it may be more convenient to check it in with the other baggage. Due to strong emotional ties, however, most family members choose to carry the urn as hand baggage, preferring the comfort of knowing their loved ones cremated remains is next to them.
Funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries across Canada and the U.S. have recently been notified of a new security procedure which will affect those passengers attempting to transport an urn or container on airlines as carry-on baggage.
If the urn or container is made of a material that generates an opaque image and prevents the security screener from clearly seeing what is inside, the urn or container will not be allowed through the security checkpoint. Furthermore, under no circumstance will a screener open the urn or container at anytime, even if requested to do so by the passenger.
If the x-rayed image is opaque, the passenger will be given the option to transport the cremated remains as checked baggage. The urn or container will undergo testing for explosive devices and, if cleared, will be permitted as checked baggage.
Most travellers carrying an urn are understandably hesitant to check the remains of their loved ones in checked baggage. Funeral homes and crematories do have temporary containers made of material that can be successfully x-rayed, such as, cardboard, plastic or wood. These containers are usually provided at no cost and are designed to hold or transport the cremated remains until an urn or other permanent container is acquired.
This new procedure has been implemented by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) but will affect all travellers entering the U.S. with a loved one’s cremated remains. Similar procedures will undoubtedly be implemented by other countries as they begin to focus on this issue. For more information, please refer to the TSA Travel Tips website at www.tsatraveltips.us or call 1-866-289-9673.
As noted, airlines will accept and transport cremated remains which are suitably packaged, labelled and accompanied by all applicable documents. The documents needed will include a letter from the funeral home or crematory confirming the contents of the urn and the identity of the deceased, a cremation certificate confirming the cremation date and location where the cremation was performed and a burial permit which would be given to the receiving funeral home or cemetery conducting the burial services.
In the case where the conveyance will be undertaken by a family member the funeral home or crematory will have that family member sign a Release of Cremated Remains Form.
Identification and Packaging
When transporting cremated remains the temporary container or urn in which the remains are placed must be properly identified. The funeral home or crematory usually places an identification label on the bottom of the container or urn with the name of the deceased, the name, address and telephone number of the crematory or funeral home and the cremation date.
The container or urn is then placed in a suitable box with all seams taped closed to increase the security and integrity of that container. Attached to the outside of the box is a specifically designed envelope containing the documentation
As more and more people are asked by their loved ones to repatriate their cremated remains or scatter a portion or all of them over a favourite fishing hole or other remote area, there will be a greater need for those involved in their transportation to ensure this service is carried out in a dignified and caring manner.
Geoff Carnell, President of Carnell’s Funeral Home in St. John’s, is Past President and former Member of the Board of Directors of the Provincial Funeral Services Association and Past President of the Funeral Services Association of Canada. He is also the author of When the Sun Sets: A Guide to Funeral Planning.