Everything About Taking Ashes Abroad Via Plane, Cargo and Ferry
In this guide, we’ll demystify the process for you, outlining the requirements for various transportation methods – whether you’re considering a commercial flight, shipping via cargo, or even mailing ashes.
We’ll go over the essential documentation you’ll need, how to prepare, and other critical considerations to ensure a smooth journey for both you and the ashes of your loved one.
Read on to find all the information you need, conveniently organised and easy to understand.
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Can You Take Ashes on a Plane?
Required Documents for Transporting Ashes Internationally
When travelling abroad with ashes, it’s imperative to have the following two documents at hand:
- Death Certificate
- Cremation Certificate
Among these, the Cremation Certificate holds more weight, as it’s a requirement by all airports and airlines. However, it’s advisable to also carry the Death Certificate for additional verification if needed.
Keep these documents easily accessible, such as in your carry-on bag.
Originals Versus Photocopies
In our experience, it’s preferable to carry the original documents as opposed to photocopied versions. While we’ve often travelled with photocopies without encountering issues, consulting with your airline for specific guidelines is advisable. You can also refer to our comprehensive list of airline rules further below.
As an extra precaution, we suggest having digital copies of the documents on hand, in case you misplace the physical versions while at the airport.
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Country Regulations for Carrying Ashes Abroad
This is mostly relevant when shipping ashes via cargo (which is explained below). Nonetheless, as regulations are subject to change, we advise reviewing the guidelines for each country before you travel.
No requirement for special permission if you’re entering or leaving the United Kingdom or Ireland.
Translation Guidelines For Carrying Ashes Abroad
- You’re Good – If your destination is an international airport or large airport then generally speaking you are fine.
- Proceed With Caution – If you’re arriving at a smaller, regional airport, you could face issues at customs if there’s a language barrier. In such instances, we recommend translating your documents. While we haven’t personally encountered an airport where English isn’t spoken, we have not travelled to every Airport in the world, so we’re letting you know of the potential risks.
Airport Security Guidelines
Place the ashes in a tray for screening; ensure the urn or container is covered or securely stored in your carry-on bag.
Expect your ashes to go through an X-ray machine and be prepared for security personnel to stop and question you about the contents. A rescan is likely to occur. This is the time to answer queries and present any required documentation.
However, if the X-ray machine can’t see through the container, you may encounter a separate set of challenges, as the urn or container must be X-ray transparent. As a result you might not be able to board the plane.
Cabin or Checked Luggage
Checked Luggage, otherwise known as Checked Baggage, consists of bags that are processed at the airline counter and stored in the aircraft’s cargo hold.
Airlines have varying policies on whether human ashes can be carried in either Cabin or Checked Luggage. We strongly advise using Cabin Luggage for ashes to minimise the risk of misplacement, damage, or worst-case, loss during transit.
Airlines will permit you to store your cabin luggage either under the seat or in an overhead compartment near you.
Equipment Information for Travelling with Ashes Abroad
When travelling with ashes, airport security protocols require particular attention, especially during X-ray scanning. It’s essential to use a container made from non-metallic materials like plastic, wood, or cardboard.
While some airlines don’t enforce a weight limit, most have a restriction ranging between 8kg and 12kg.
Ashes generally weigh between 1.8kg and 4kg, and the urn can add an extra 1kg to 3kg. Therefore, the combined weight of the container with the ashes can range from 2.8kg up to 7kg.
Keep these weight considerations in mind when travelling with ashes on a plane as airlines can be super strict especially when the plane is full.
To transport the urn carrying the ashes abroad, you’ll require a bag or rucksack. Typically, urns range from 10 to 12 inches in height (25 to 30 cm) and 6 to 8 inches in diameter (15 to 20 cm). For precise measurements: you can measure the urn yourself, refer to the product specifications provided at the time of purchase, or consult the crematorium if you obtained the urn from them directly.
Additional Luggage Options
Some airlines offer the option to pay extra for additional luggage or to carry more items in your checked or carry-on baggage. This could be beneficial if you’re travelling with other large items, like a laptop.
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List of Airlines
Taking Ashes Abroad via Cargo
So, what exactly is cargo in this context? cargo refers to the transportation of ashes using a specialised cargo plane that carries no passengers. While this could technically be considered as posting ashes by plane, for the purposes of this information guide, we’ll refer to it as sending ashes via cargo.
For an International Funeral Director to transport ashes on your behalf you will need the following documents:
- Death certificate
- Cremation certificate
- Country “Let pass’ certificate
When obtaining the ‘Let Pass’ certificate from the embassy, which essentially grants permission for the ashes to be brought into the destination country, both a letter of authorization and the passport of the next of kin are required.
Info: The name ‘Let pass’ is called various names but all mean the same thing.
Having the original copies of both the cremation and death certificates is crucial, as the absence of these documents will lead the airline to reject the transportation of the ashes. Your International Funeral Director would stress this anyway.
Additional Documents Sometimes Required:
The cargo service may request further documentation depending on the destination country, which could include the birth certificate and the cancelled passport of the deceased. Again, your International Funeral Director would inform you of this.
Certain countries, such as France, prohibit the shipping of ashes via cargo services. In such cases, you would need to transport the ashes on a commercial flight. While country information may be difficult to locate online, your International Funeral Director can provide the necessary guidance.
Does it take longer?
Yes, opting to send ashes via cargo generally takes more time compared to carrying them on a commercial flight. This is due to the various rules and regulations involved. However, if the destination country allows it and you’d prefer not to travel with the ashes yourself, this remains a viable option.
Sending Ashes Abroad Via Post
Indeed, Royal Mail permits the local and international shipping of ashes, but with stringent regulations.
Specifically, each package should not contain more than 50 grams of ashes.
To give you an idea of what this means, the total weight of human ashes usually ranges from 1,800 to 4,000 grams.
So technically, you could divide the ashes into 36 to 80 individual parcels for shipping, but we highly discourage this due to the irreplaceable nature of the contents. However, if you wish to distribute the ashes among various family members, this method could be used.
How to send ashes with Royal Mail?
Ashes should be stored in a container that prevents leakage and securely sealed. The container must be snugly fitted into robust external packaging, with adequate cushioning to mitigate any potential damage. The exterior of the package must visibly display the sender’s name and return address. And as stated above must not contain more than 50 grams of ashes.
Can you send ashes with FedEX?
No, FedEx does not allow the transportation of human corpses, human organs or body parts, human embryos, or cremated or disinterred human remains.
Story: FedEx lost the human remains of Jeffrey Merriweather, 32, while being shipped from Atlanta to a special trauma lab in St. Louis, and the body has been missing for over three years.
Can you send ashes with DHL?
Can you send ashes with UPS?
Can you send human ashes with DPD?
Taking Ashes Abroad by Ferry
From commercial flights and cargo planes to crossing borders on a ferry, there are various ways to move your loved one’s ashes. While each method comes with its own set of rules and requirements, preparation and careful planning can ensure a smooth process.