Making Sure Mom's and Lorraine's Cremated Remains Could Clear Airport Security
I had a long checklist started in preparation for our trip to Colorado to spread Mom's ashes. I also delegated some tasks to others. My friend Anna's responsibility (since she travels a lot for business) was to check with the airline about any challenges in taking cremated remains on-board the airplane. She called me one morning to give the report - you have to make sure that the cremated remains are in a type of container that can be x-rayed. Mom's ashes were in the proper container, but Lorraine's were not so Anna had to return Lorraine' remains to the funeral home in order to get a proper container.
The National Funeral Directors Association has a 2004 press release concerning the current regulations about transporting a loved one's remains as carry on. The press release notes:
"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced new procedures for transporting urns and containers must pass through the carry-on x-ray machine. If the urn or container is made of a material that prevents the screener from clearly seeing what is inside, then it will not be allowed through the security checkpoint.
In cases where an urn or container does not pass the checkpoint inspection, passengers may transport the remains as checked baggage as long as the urn or container allows the baggage x-ray machine a clear view of the contents and passes an explosive device screening. However, there is a possibility that if the contents are not clear going through the carry-on x-ray machine, then they also will be unclear going through the checked baggage x-ray machine.
The TSA is recommending that families traveling with urns or temporary containers arrive at airports early enough to allow time for security screening. They also recommend traveling with an urn or temporary container comprised of wood, plastic or non-lead lined ceramic. Any urn or container that is not able to successfully complete the security screening will need to be shipped via a private shipping company.
Out of respect to the deceased, under no circumstances can an airport security screener open the urn or container at any time, even if the passenger requests it."
Also, when Anna took Lorraine's cremated remains back to the funeral home, the staff told Anna that she needed to have a "letter of contraband" to show the TSA staff at the security area. Anna relayed this message to me; our funeral home had not heard of that type of letter, but issued a "letter of cremation" that we could carry.
These precautions eased our mind, and as it turned out, we had no problem going through security. As we placed our carry-on bags (which respectively held Mom's and Lorraine's ashes) on the conveyer belt to enter the x-ray machine, we gave the TSA staff a heads-up as to the contents. The containers went through just fine and we didn't have to produce the letters.
The Transportation Security Administration has posted a special section on their website providing information on transporting a deceased loved one on an airplane: