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Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Ways to Travel with Cremated Remains

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Urn

You may have seen a story in the news recently about a traveler finding his mother’s cremains spilled in his checked bag at LAX. We understand how painful losing a loved one is, and we express our sincere condolences. It’s terrible that he had to discover this, and we can’t fathom the emotions this would induce.

In an effort to prevent this from happening to anybody else, we’d like to explain what happened and offer some guidance on traveling with cremains.

We immediately looked into the matter, and upon video review, we learned that the checked bag alarmed for an unidentified object. Upon opening the bag for inspection, a TSA officer discovered that the object was an opened, unmarked ceramic container that was loosely wrapped in aluminum foil. Due to the lack of markings, the officer did not know that the contents were cremains. The container was carefully repacked and the bag was cleared to continue to its destination.

Travelers are allowed to travel with cremains in a checked bag, however it is recommended to do so in a carry-on bag to help protect the contents from the risks associated with checked baggage. Checked bags are subjected to rapid and sometimes rough movement along a series of conveyor belts as they make the trek to and from the aircraft. A little known fact is that checked bags are only in TSA’s possession for a fraction of their journey to the aircraft.

TSA has a clear process for screening crematory remains. Our officers routinely conduct these types of screenings throughout our nation’s airports. Crematory remains in carry-on must pass through the X-ray machine to be screened. If the X-ray operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm. If the officer cannot determine that the container does not contain a prohibited item, the remains will not be permitted.

We understand the emotional stress passengers may be under when transporting the remains of a loved one. Our guidelines for traveling with crematory remains are not intended to make this already emotionally difficult process more complex than needed. However, crematory remains are one of the many sensitive items that could be exploited by someone wanting to conceal a dangerous item. TSA officers are trained to treat all travelers’ belongings with care and respect and will not open containers with cremated remains, even if the passenger requests this be done.

We have a team of TSA employees who are ready to answer your questions via Twitter at @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger. They look forward to answering your questions 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET daily. You may also reach our contact center by email or by phone at 866-289-9673. Federal Relay: 711

Some airlines do not allow crematory remains in checked baggage, so check with your airline first.

Bob Burns

TSA Social Media

Comments

Submitted by G Lippman on

Thank you for posting this information.

Submitted by Alfred J Hancock on

Having gone through this process twice myself, there are a couple of recommendations I would make for all individuals in this situation. First, check with the airline to see what their policy is. When I checked with Condor, (travel to Europe), I was told the cremains had to be in my checked luggage and in a sealed see through plastic bag in a container. When I checked with Delta I was told the same thing. I used a metal urn and I also had a copy of the death certificate attached to the outside of the bubble wrapped urn. TSA checked my bag both times. They looked at the certificate (I could tell by the placement) and replaced it. I put a tape seal around they lid and it did not look as if it had been removed.

Submitted by Ann Schrader on

My mother's ashes were divided and scattered in three different places around the world. One being the a harbor in her favorite country. My husband and I were going on a trip to this place, so I put her ashes in a double zip locked Baggie and put the papers from the crematory with them. The package was then put into my checked baggage and arrived safely at our destination.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You people are sick.

Submitted by Karun Chhabra on

TSA’s sensitivity to address this highly emotional sentiment is indeed very laudable. It is a tough task you perform to keep us safe and at the same time maintain a balance with a humane approach. Kudos to your staff.

Submitted by Max Yost on

Interesting... All it takes is a high-profile NFL player with plenty of media to have his mother's ashes desecrated by your clerks for you to quickly defend yourselves. Pathetic...

Submitted by Sherry Christopher on

When I cremated my husband I was given a certificate which I was told it is always be kept with the ashes especially if you intend to travel with it.
Is the certificate supposed to be with the ashes during transit?
Should the passenger have declared that he was traveling with the ashes?
Shouldn't the ashes have been in an urn of some sort?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

How about releasing the CCTV coverage so that we can see for ourselves what happened?

Submitted by Allen Tothill on

Everyone has a different way of handling the passing of a loved one. My brother-in-law, a lifelong Steelers' fan, requested in his will that his ashes be scattered at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The management at the stadium permitted his wife and children to comply on a day the stadium was unused. Seemed unusual to me but brought the family closure for a man who died very young. They flew from Chicago to Pittsburgh with the ashes in a a clear plastic bag in a ceramic urn in their carry on. They had no issues with TSA who were very understanding.

Submitted by Anonymous on

We have a team of TSA employees who are ready to answer your questions via Twitter at @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger. They look forward to answering your questions 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET daily. You may also reach our contact center by email or by phone at 866-289-9673. Federal Relay: 711
..........................

I would like to ask a question using the @AskTSA twitter medium but for some unknown reason I get this response when going there:

"You are blocked from following @AskTSA and viewing @AskTSA's Tweets. Learn more"

Can anyone at TSA explain why I would not be allowed to access a public, taxpayer funded, means to communicate with TSA?

Submitted by Brian X on

Because tsa is keeping the flying public safe lol okay

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

Upon opening the bag for inspection, a TSA officer discovered that the object was an opened, unmarked ceramic container that was loosely wrapped in aluminum foil.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Post a video showing the "open" cremains container. Otherwise it's just words for a less than reliable source.

Submitted by CatReader on

As a past TSA officer, certified in both passenger checkpoint and checked baggage and serving as a Passenger Support Specialist, I recommended and preferred that travellers place cremated remains in their carryon luggage. It allows the traveller to be present during screening and for the officer to inform the traveller what additional actions, if any, will be required, to clear the remains. Although some of the comments refer to travellers having included certificates and notes, readers must be aware that these documents may convey valid information, they do not and cannot exempt an item from appropriate screening.

Submitted by CatReader on

As a past TSA officer, certified in both passenger checkpoint and checked baggage and serving as a Passenger Support Specialist, I recommended and preferred that travellers place cremated remains in their carryon luggage. It allows the traveller to be present during screening and for the officer to inform the traveller what additional actions, if any, will be required, to clear the remains. Although some of the comments refer to travellers having included certificates and notes, readers must be aware that these documents may convey valid information, they do not and cannot exempt an item from appropriate screening.

Submitted by P Wilson on

Really for what's going on today. No one can be possibly blame.Understandable.

Submitted by P Wilson on

It's ashame!!but this is what it comes down to in ages we are living in. The wrong doers is what make it so painful for the innocents.Your hand luggage is the best place for those intimate & personal things. God Bless!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

And you're a jerk. Keep your stupid comments to yourself.

Submitted by Lisa Coughlin on

Thank you for the valuable info

Submitted by KB on

This is excellent advice. Thank you for posting.

Submitted by Tyrone on

Which leaves me wondering why you are anonymous???

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sounds as if the TSA is minimizing yet another insensitive way to handle the truth.

Submitted by S S Thompson on

Is your comment intended for employees/representatives of TSA, the people leaving comments on this blog, or just everyone who doesn't memorialize their dead the way YOU do? It's been my experience that when a blog or website requires people to register and sign in with their real names, comments immediately become much more civil. Hiding behind the mask of Anonymous is so tiresome. TSA is attempting to address an emotionally-charged subject, while simultaneously delivering information to the public. We're all different. Some people prefer burial, others prefer cremation, and still others - like MY family - donate their bodies to medical science. Such a personal decision is exactly that - personal.

Submitted by John Delves on

If you are going to hide and coward behind an "anonymous" handle keep your comments to yourself. Some people are actually here to learn and don't care about your political views.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"TSA screener discovered that the object was an opened, unmarked ceramic container" So if the container was already opened, there should have been ashes in the suitcase. But your defense does not mention that, which makes me believe that the container was, in fact, not opened.

Submitted by Brian Black on

Thank you well said John Delves.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"I would like to ask a question using the @AskTSA twitter medium but for some unknown reason I get this response when going there:

"You are blocked from following @AskTSA and viewing @AskTSA's Tweets. Learn more"

Can anyone at TSA explain why I would not be allowed to access a public, taxpayer funded, means to communicate with TSA?"

You might want to contact the Knight First Amendment Center at blockedonline@knightcolumbia.org They are preparing
to take action against government agencies and government employees who block individuals in violation of the First Amendment. Knight First Amendment Center at Columbia https://knightcolumbia.org/

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Don W on

I brought my mothers ashes back to NY from FLA, via JetBlue. They were understanding and accommodating. I took the Urn as a carry-on. No problem.

Submitted by Ann Reeves on

I am sorry that you feel that way. This is a very important and emotional issue for many people.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

"...The container was carefully repacked"

Apparently not. Since the container wound up spilled upon arrival.

Submitted by Andrea Reber on

Also put the container in an giant Ziploc bag and label it.That would help if it spills

Submitted by Susan Richart on

From the recent unfortunate court opinion on the immunity of TSA screeners from prosecution:

“TSA screeners are more like federal meat inspectors than police officers.”

and

"The court also noted that when the TSA was created, the initial job description given to its employees at airport checkpoints was simply “screener.” This was later switched to “transportation security officer” only as a kind of morale booster. In contrast, actual federal law enforcement officers are given the power to execute arrests and carry firearms, the court found."

'Nuf said. :-)

screen shot/DHS IG statement

Submitted by Johnny Godwin on

Susan,
You have so much hatred in your heart. Who cares if they are called screeners or officers. Everyone knows they are bot law enforcement. They took away your shampoo get over it. You weren't the first and definitely won't be the last.

I almost forgot.
'Nuf said. :-)

screen shot/DHS IG statement. LoL

Submitted by Anonymous on

Grow up

Submitted by Max Yost on

"'You are blocked from following @AskTSA and viewing @AskTSA's Tweets. Learn more'"

Interestingly, I also have received these messages when attempting to access @AskTSA, @TSA and @TSAMedia_LisaF. My heinous crime? Disagreeing with the TSA and its employees.

Bob and others, a federal judge has ruled it illegal (violation of 1st Amendment rights) for a government official to block a citizen from an official social media site. I refer you to Davison v Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. I strongly suggest you contact Francine to provide the TSA with legal guidance to abide by the court's ruling.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"Susan,
You have so much hatred in your heart. Who cares if they are called screeners or officers. Everyone knows they are bot law enforcement. They took away your shampoo get over it. You weren't the first and definitely won't be the last.

I almost forgot.
'Nuf said. :-)

screen shot/DHS IG statement. LoL"

You bet I do, buddy. The TSA does NOTHING to make air travel safer, it violates, humiliates and degrades passengers on a regular basis and costs us taxpayers billions of dollars a year. What's not to hate?

Submitted by Frank on

I served as a blue shirt, TSO for 9 months at Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale Int'l Airport (had enough, quit at my choice) and I can assure you I have never been exposed to a more unprofessional, juvenile management structure in my 30+ years of employment. One can imagine what a one stripe newbie has to deal with when at any given time, said newbie reports to three different people. Training did take place but focused more on screening procedures rather than personal interaction or human consideration. I once witnessed a 3 stripe supervisor publicly berate a woman passenger for not speaking English. TSO screeners are hired more for supplying a body than any demonstrable talent. I have no doubt the urn was opened by the baggage screener (to see what was inside), placed back in the luggage unsecured, and sent on it's way.

Submitted by Frank on

Johnny, explain to me the logic of confiscating a squeezed out tube of toothpaste that's labelled as 8oz but obviously has less than 4oz still in it and allowing a full 4oz tube? As a former TSO I can assure you common sense, discretionary thought and educated decision making are not advocated in the TSA.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

I always find it interesting when the TSA approves comments that are in direction violation of the rules.

I find it illuminating that when it happens it is always, without fail, someone supporting the blue-glove-brigands that are the TSA Screeners.