Transporting mortal remains from one state to another, or to another country – What you need to know
When You Need to Ship a Body: Understanding Funeral Shipping.
If you need to ship a loved one’s remains to return them home for a funeral or burial, our experts are here to help you. One call to our Expert Team, and we can begin arrangements to transfer your loved one into our care.
We offer Funeral Shipping Services both domestically and Internationally, and we handle the process every step of the way.
Once your loved one is in our care, we organize the preparation of the body, the transportation of the body in a professional and dignified manner, and the delivery of the deceased to his or her final destination.
Funeral shipping can seem complex, but our Team has years of experience handling the transfer of remains. So, let us guide you through the process. We take care of all the legal documentation, coordinate with the airlines or mortuary transport company, and get the best prices on funeral shipping services.
Call Us Now – We are Here to Help You Return Your Loved One Home.
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 wishes to return their remains to a home state, there are two options, transporting the body by ground transportation or shipping the body by air.
This is what is referred to as ‘domestic funeral shipping.’
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 the embarkation station to the 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.
Below, we cover this in more detail in ‘How is the deceased prepared for transportation.'
Each state has different rules and legislation for funeral licensing, which 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 shipment of the human remains.
The deceased needs to be specially prepared for airline freight of mortal remains. This requires embalming or preparing with dry ice and using 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 two elements to working out the total cost of shipping the deceased within the U.S.
Firstly, the ‘ship-out’ fee will be charged by the ‘first call’ or dispatching funeral home.
This is the fee to collect the deceased from the place of death and prepare the remains for shipment. This fee generally ranges from $600 to $1,500.
This can depend upon the requirements for shipping and whether embalming is required.
Secondly, there is a 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 a flight.
Airline cargo funeral shipment fees within the U.S. can range between $600 - $3,000.
It is important to note that ONLY a known shipper can arrange 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 shipment arrangements.
How can you arrange affordable domestic funeral shipping?
Unfortunately, transporting 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 try to do so at an affordable cost, you should compare some prices and services. Ground transportation will likely be your best option if the distance is not too far.
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.
Purchasing a death care Travel Protection Plan can protect you from expensive funeral shipping expenses.
This is a simple enrollment, one-time payment of $450 that covers all services and expenses to transport the deceased home or arrange a cremation at the place of death & transport the cremated remains home.
To read more about the Travel Protection Plan and enroll for membership, visit Travel Protection Plan: Affordable Funeral Shipping Coverage.
This plan provides complete, affordable provisions for funeral expenses for people who travel away from home.
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 specializing 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 destination country.
How much does it cost to ship a dead body to another country?
The cost of International Funeral Shipping is generally more expensive. As I have mentioned, it is a more complex process that 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 $2,000 - $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 range by the destination country, but a ballpark figure would be anywhere between $2,000 - $6,000.
This means 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 an ‘approved’ receiving country shipping container.
They handle all the bureaucracy, coordinate all local, state, and receiving country consulate paperwork, and book all international flights.
As ‘Known Shippers’ with major airlines, a Funeral Shipping Provider can easily confirm flight availability and often has 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 of the deceased’s international or domestic flight.
The export/import of human remains must meet the regulations of both the disembarking and receiving countries. A certified English translation of the death certificate, written authorization from local authorities to remove the body, and a certificate of embalming must accompany the body.
How do you choose a Mortuary Shipping Provider?
It is advisable to select a funeral home at the place of death with experience handling mortal remains shipments.
Funeral homes can use several international mortuary shipping companies to work with them on the shipment process. Most of these companies deal directly with funeral homes and not with families.
How is the deceased prepared for transportation?
The deceased is either embalmed or sheltered in refrigerated storage and 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 transportation.
What legal procedures need to be completed to transport a deceased body?
As 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.
The documentation must be translated if the deceased is being transported to a foreign country.
How long does it take to arrange to transport the deceased overseas after death?
This depends on the speedy completion of the Consulate approval and paperwork. If there are no complications with completing all the requirements, it will usually take about 5 business days.
Can a barometric or oversized 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 oversized caskets and facilities to manage an overweight body.
In terms of transporting an oversized body this requires a larger vehicle, special lifting equipment, wider doors, and a stronger chassis.
Most commercial airlines that offer funeral shipping have a cut-off weight of 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 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 the 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 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 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 mortuary transportation
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 the availability of seats, but some airlines do still try to 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 remains
If the costs for transporting the deceased's body seem too expensive and you either cannot or do not wish to incur that expense to repatriate your loved one’s remains, you may wish to consider 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 must carefully ensure that you comply 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 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 a carry-on. Most reputable funeral homes and cremation urn suppliers familiar with this legislation will be able to provide a known TSA-compliant 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
Taking out a repatriation policy is possible 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 $450 as a one-time payment. This assurance policy covers the repatriation of a body back home or cremation at the place of death.
It can give peace of mind to those who travel or have retired and spend time in warmer climates during winter.