Transporting mortal remains
from one state to another, or to another country – What you need to know
Funeral Shipping Explained
With a more mobile, transient,
and immigrant society today, death arrangements often cross state lines,
or even country borders. This section covers everything you need
to know about transporting the mortal remains of a loved one for a funeral,
or simply to repatriate remains to a state or country of origin for interment.
Transporting a deceased person generally means that you need the services
of 2 funeral homes. One at the location of death to collect and prepare
the body for funeral shipping, and a funeral home where the deceased is
being transported, to receive the remains and conduct the funeral and/or
What happens if you need to
transport the deceased from one state to another?
If a loved one has passed away
in another state and the family wish to return their remains to a home
state, there are 2 options, transporting the body by ground transportation
or shipping the body by air. This is what is referred to as ‘domestic
Moving the deceased by ground
transportation can be a reasonably cost efficient solution if the deceased
only needs to be transported locally and the distance between the states
is not too far. Most funeral homes or mortuary transport companies
offer ground transportation at a per loaded mile rate. This varies
by funeral home but is usually in the range of $1.00 to $4.00 per loaded
mile. If you calculate the distance of the journey, you can work
out a base cost for what this form of transportation would cost.
Rail transportation is another
option if the distance is too far. This would incur a rail shipment
fee from embarkation station to destination.
On top of this you would
have the ‘ship-out’ fee. This is the fee the funeral home charges
to collect the deceased from the place of death and prepare the body for
shipping. We cover this in more detail below in ‘How is the deceased
prepared for transportation’.
There are differing rules
and legislation in each state for funeral licensing and this can affect
how a deceased person’s remains can be transported. Some states have
legislation that requires a body to be embalmed to cross a state line.
In other states, it is sufficient to pack a body with dry ice and/or use
a refrigerated transportation vehicle. Your dispatching funeral
home or mortuary transport company will be familiar with what laws pertain
to the journey that needs to be made.
Air transportation between states
If the distance between states
is too far, then transportation would need to be by air. Several
airline companies offer human remains cargo shipping. A funeral home
that offers mortuary shipping will have a contract with an airline (or
several different airlines) as a ‘known mortuary shipper’. This means
they can easily obtain airline freight fees for a journey and register
the human remains shipment. The deceased needs to be prepared especially
for airline freight of mortal remains. This requires embalming or
preparing with dry ice, and the use of a special air freight tray to hold
the casket for transportation. There are also shipment declarations
that must be made, and legal requirements for moving a deceased person
across state lines.
How much does it cost to ship
a dead body within the United States?
There are 2 elements to working
out the total cost for shipping the deceased within the U.S. Firstly,
there is the ‘ship-out’ fee that the ‘first call’, or dispatching funeral
home will charge. This is the fee to collect the deceased from the
place of death and prepare the remains for shipment. This fee generally
ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. This can depend upon the requirements
for shipping and whether embalming is required.
Secondly, there is the cost
for the actual freight or transportation costs. This will differ
depending on whether it is ground or air transportation. As mentioned
above, ground transportation is a per mile charge, whereas air transportation
is a set airline shipment for flight. Airline cargo funeral shipment
fees for within the U.S. can range between $600 - $3,000. It is important
to note that ONLY a known shipper can make arrangements to ship a dead
body by cargo. A family cannot deal directly with the airline.
This is because regulations of the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) require that only known shippers, who have been approved, can make
How can you arrange affordable
domestic funeral shipping?
a deceased person across the United States, can be expensive. In
fact, it is often more expensive than flying First Class! If you
need to arrange mortuary transportation, but need to try and do so at an
affordable cost, then you should compare some prices and services.
If the distance is not too far, then ground transportation is likely to
be your best option. Find a funeral home where the deceased is located
that offers affordable services. Even if they cannot transport the
deceased, they can prepare the deceased for transportation, and will probably
have a local mortuary transport company that they use.
What happens if you need to
transport the deceased overseas?
Transporting the deceased overseas
can be more complex. Now there is export and import legislation to
meet, customs declarations, consulate forms and the logistic requirements
to coordinate a mortal shipment from a dispatching location in the U.S.
to the receiving country, and receiving funeral service provider overseas.
It can be really important to use the services of an experienced and professional
funeral company that specializes in International funeral shipping, as
time can be of the essence in gathering all the Embassy or Consulate documents,
and knowing the requirements for funeral cargo shipping import for the
How much does it cost to ship
a dead body to another country?
The cost for International Funeral
Shipping is generally more expensive. As I have mentioned, it is
a more complex process, which requires more time from the funeral director.
Also, there can be additional fees for the Embassy paperwork, and the shipment
tray requirements for the destination country. International ship-out
fees tend to start at around $3,000 - $4,000, but can sometimes cost even
more than this. On top of the ship-out service charge, you then have
the airline cost for an international mortuary cargo fee. These obviously
range by destination country, but a ball-park figure would be anywhere
between $2,000 - $6,000.
This means an international
repatriation of remains can cost thousands of dollars in total.
What does an International Funeral
Shipping Provider do?
They arrange everything for
you. Time IS of the essence if a body needs to be transported internationally.
One call to an International Funeral Shipping Program Funeral Provider,
and they will immediately set the ball rolling. Arrangements are
made to collect the deceased from the place of death and move them to a
funeral facility. They ensure the correct preparation for transportation,
including a sealer casket, and ‘approved’ receiving country shipping container.
They handle all the bureaucracy and coordinate all local, state, and receiving
country consulate paperwork and handle the booking of all international
flights. As ‘Known Shippers’ with major airlines, a Funeral
Shipping Funeral Provider can usually confirm flight availability with
ease and often have discounted programs. An experienced funeral shipper
will be versant with shipping windows and after hours’ release processes,
ensuring they can transport your loved one home as speedily as possible.
The specialized team handling
the funeral shipping will also liaise with the receiving country, or state,
funeral provider to ensure a seamless transportation process. They also
handle the delivery and supervision onto the deceased’s international or
The export/import of human
remains must meet the regulations of both the disembarking and receiving
country. A certified English translation of the death certificate, written
authorization from local authorities to remove the body, and a certificate
of the embalming must accompany the body.
How do you choose a Mortuary
It is advisable to select a
funeral home at the place of death that has experience of handling mortal
remains shipments. There are several international mortuary shipping
companies that funeral homes can use to work with them on the shipment
process. Most of these companies deal direct with funeral homes and
not with families.
How is the deceased prepared
The deceased is either embalmed,
or sheltered in refrigerated storage, and then shipped on dry ice.
The body is placed in a casket, or suitable (and approved) container for
transportation. All the legal paperwork must accompany the body during
What legal procedures need to
be completed to transport a deceased body?
As I explained above, this varies
depending on the legal requirements for each state or country. The
death certificate must accompany the deceased, and additional paperwork,
as required. For ground transportation, this will be transit permits.
For overseas funeral shipping, the consulate documentation, and customs
import/export documentation must all be in order and accompany the deceased.
If the deceased is being transported to a foreign country, all the documentation
must be translated.
How long does it take after
death to arrange to transport the deceased overseas?
This very much depends on the
speedy completion of the Consulate approval and paperwork. If there are
no complications with completing all the requirements, it will ususally
take about 5 business days.
Can a barometric, or oversize
deceased body, be transported?
We have a growing obese population,
and according to National Mortuary Shipping, in 10 years’ time, nearly
half of all burials will require oversize caskets and facilities to manage
an overweight body. In terms of transporting an oversize body, this
requires a larger size vehicle, special lifting equipment, wider doors
and stronger chassis.
Most commercial airlines
that offer funeral shipping have a cut-off weight at 500 pounds.
If the deceased weighed more than 500 pounds and requires shipping, it
could be more problematic, and more expensive!
What is an air-tray?
This is a special kind of container
that the airlines and the TSA require a body to be placed inside for shipment
on an airplane. It is specially designed to be robust and protect
the deceased during freight, but also for health and safety purposes, it
is air-tight to prevent any leakages.
Can a family transport a dead
body over state lines?
This can depend on the state.
Certain states will allow transportation without embalming, and there are
42 states do not legally require you to employ a funeral director to conduct
a funeral. You may need to obtain a permit to transport.
Airline Mortal Remains Transportation
Airline carriers that specialize in Mortuary
Shipping Cargo Services:
American Airlines Jim Wilson
Service: Dedicated help desk for funeral homes, offering scheduled service
to 250 cities in 40 countries, special ramps at larger AA Cargo facilities
& shorter drop off times.
Delta Cargo ‘Delta Cares’ service
& Fallen Soldier Program: Also offer considerate rates for bereavement
travel and allow the transportation of a casket spray at no extra charge.
Southwest Airlines Cargo:
Southwest Support provides mortuary shipping services across the Southwest
network of destinations apart from Interline or Road Feeder destinations.
US Funerals Online is currently
partnered with funeral shipping experts in New York, London, Paris, Los
Angeles, Houston, Rome, Mexico City, Guatemala City, Buenos Aires, Sydney,
Beijing, Tokyo, Warsaw, Madrid and Kiev.
Accompanying the deceased during
Most mortuary shipments go on
commercial flights as cargo, so if you are traveling with the remains,
you should be able to accompany the final journey of your loved one on
the same flight. Of course, this depends on availability of seats,
but some airlines do still try and accommodate bereavement travel and will
try and make special arrangements in the circumstances.
Affordable remains transportation:
Arranging a direct cremation at the place of death and transporting cremated
If the costs for transporting
the body of the deceased seem too expensive and you either cannot, or do
not wish, to incur that level of expense to repatriate your loved one’s
remains, you may wish to consider a cremation at the place of death.
The cremated remains can
then be shipped back home at a reduced cost. A basic direct
cremation can usually be arranged for around $1,000 (depending on the state/country
of death) and the shipping of cremated remains costs much less as it is
a much smaller weight freight item.
Cremated remains can be carried
on as hand luggage on most airlines, although you do need to carefully
ensure that you are compliant with the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) guidelines. Cremated remains MUST be transported in a temporary
container that can pass through TSA x-ray machines. This should be
a container constructed of wood, plastic, cardboard or any non-lead based
ceramic. The TSA personnel are NOT permitted to open an urn to check
the contents, therefore if a container does not pass through the x-ray,
it will not be allowed as carry-on. Most reputable funeral homes
and cremation urn suppliers who are familiar with this legislation will
be able to provide a known TSA complaint container for transportation.
Cremated remains can be transported
by the U.S. Postal Service so long as they are correctly packaged.
Repatriation of Remains Insurance
– Travel Protection Plan for those who travel frequently
It is possible to take out a
repatriation policy if you (or a family member) travel frequently.
It can become especially important if you are over 50 and travel regularly
out of state or overseas. A Travel Protection Plan can be purchased
for around $495 as a one-time payment. This is an assurance policy
that covers repatriation of a body back home, or a cremation at the place
of death. It is can give peace of mind to those who travel or have
retired and spend time in warmer climates during the winter months.
If you need a quote for funeral
shipping, please call (877) 347-8086 or fill out the form at the top of
this page, and a quote will be forwarded to you.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 10 years.
Memorials – low cost cremation network
of Remains Insurance
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Last Revised: 08-13-2018