Skip to main content

What if Mom dies in San Francisco but Dad is buried in Vermont?

I was recently asked by a patient’s family member what they need to prepare for should their loved one pass away and they need to transport the body to their family home. While I have encountered this issue for a patient who died and was cremated (the family carried the urn with them on the flight as a carry-on) I surprised myself in realizing that neither I, nor my informal survey of several geriatric and palliative care colleagues knew the answer. I suspect that, ultimately, most palliative care social workers and, certainly, directors of mortuaries and funeral homes can provide the answer this family member needed. But I decided I needed to learn how to answer this important question myself.

In short, travelling with cremated remains is far easier than travelling with uncremated “human remains” (the term used universally amongst the airline carriers). All remains must be accompanied by the death certificate and, depending on the state of destination, certain legal documents. Shipping containers must, understandably, meet specified regulations (particularly for uncremated human remains). Most funeral homes and airlines can provide these “airtrays” and sealed bags/containers at variable cost. Uncremated human remains travel in the ‘cargo’ section of the plane. Human remains can also be shipped in caskets though this often increases the weight significantly which, for airlines charging by weight, can raise the cost astronomically. As such, the cost of sending human remains via airline cargo can range from ~$150 to > $2000.

Most airlines require ~3day advance arrangement and the delivery/pick-up times for human remains tend to be restricted hours of the day.

Below are links to general information for patients and families. Please note that these links do not in any way indicate my or GeriPal’s endorsement of these specific airline carriers but is simply included here to provide education and a resource for patients and families.

Official statement from the Transportation Security Administration about travelling with cremated remains

American Airlines (here and here)

Continental Airlines

Delta Airlines

Frontier Airlines

Southwest Airlines (here and here)

United Airlines

US Airways

by: Helen Kao

Comments

Anonymous said…
Helen, That was very very informative, thanks for researching it and sharing it with us.
drw05 said…
Dr. Kao,
Thank you for posting the relevant information on airline options for transportation of human remains. I noticed you singled out “palliative care social workers.” Please know that most hospital chaplains are helpful, as well, with this information.
JGH said…
1977--My father died in California on a trip and his burial space next to my mother was in South Carolina. His body was being "shipped" to SC by air. I told my only brother that I wanted to be at the airport when Dad's body arrived. My brother said "No", that he had seen too many bodies being shipped like cargo when he was in Vietnam with the Army. He said the people handling the body would just be baggage handlers and not funeral directors. My brother went with me to watch my father's body be removed from the cargo hold. The cargo people were aware we were there and treated his body with respect. I love my brother for being there with me even though it was extremely difficult for him.---- Thank you for writing the article---Thought my personal experience may help someone.---Christian Blessings!
Janmar Delicana said…
Dear Dr. Kao,
It’s a great pleasure to read your blog. I find your post very informative. Thank you for sharing.
As a reader, I consider your writing to be a great example of a quality and globally competitive output.
As a moderator for Physician Nexus (a community for physicians) I would like to share your genuine ideas and knowledge. With this you can gain 1000 physician readers on Nexus.
We would love for you to visit our community. It's free, takes seconds, and is designed for physicians only - completely free of industry bias and commercial interests.
Best,
Janmar Delicana
On behalf of the Physician Nexus Team
www.PhysicianNexus.com

Popular posts from this blog

Practical Advice for the End of Life: A Podcast with BJ Miller

This week we talk with BJ Miller, hospice and palliative care physician, public speaker, and now author with Shoshana Berger of the book "A Beginner's Guide to the End."

As we note on the podcast, BJ is about as close as we get to a celebrity in Hospice and Palliative Care.  His TED Talk "What Really Matters at the End of Life" has been viewed more than 9 million times.  As we discuss on the Podcast, this has changed BJ's life, and he spends most of his working time engaged in public speaking, being the public "face" of the hospice and palliative care movement.

The book he and Berger wrote is filled to the brim with practical advice.  I mean, nuts and bolts practical advice.  Things like:
How to clean out not only your emotional house but your physical house (turns out there are services for that!)Posting about your illness on social media (should you post to Facebook)What is the difference between a funeral home and mortuaryCan I afford to die?  …

Caring, and the Family Caregivers We Don’t See

Over lunch at a restaurant in Manhattan, my father and I talked about long-term care insurance and the emergence of senior centers and nursing homes across the U.S. that offer a variety of ethnic cuisines and cultural events, catering not only to a growing population of adults over 65, but also, to an increasingly diverse population of adults who call the U.S. their home. This conversation was different from many similar ones before it – we weren’t talking about my research; we were talking about our own lives.
My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, following their parents’ advice on professional opportunities that seemed unimaginable in India at the time. Although they considered moving back soon after to care for their aging parents and to raise children, they ultimately decided to stay in the U.S. As I chronicled earlier, my paternal grandparents lived with us until I completed middle school, at which point they returned to India and lived with my mater…

Top 25 Studies in Hospice and Palliative Care (#HPMtop25)

by: Kara Bishoff (@kara_bischoff )

Back in 2015 we wrote a post asking for input on what articles should belong on a list of the top 25 articles in hospice and palliative care.   We decided to focus on hospice palliative care studies and trials - as opposed to review articles, consensus statements and opinion pieces.

Here’s what we came up with. It was hard to pick just 25! We highly prioritized clinical utility and tried to achieve diversity & balance. Many others are worthy of inclusion. Take a look and let us know if you have suggested changes for next year.

Module 1: Symptom Management
Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Oral Docusate in the Management of Constipation in Hospice Patients. Tarumi Y et al. JPSM, 2013.Once-Daily Opioids for Chronic Dyspnea: A Dose Increment and Pharmacovigilance Study. Currow DC et al. JPSM, 2011.Effect of palliative oxygen versus room air in relief of breathlessness in patients with refractory dyspnoea: a double-blind, randomise…