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Travelling with human ashes

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How to make your loved one’s final journey an easy one

After a loved one has been cremated, you may find yourself needing to travel with the ashes, either to bring them home, or to take them to a meaningful place to be scattered.

Thankfully, there are no legislative restrictions or requirements for travelling with human ashes in Australia, or for taking them overseas. However, if you intend to take your loved one’s ashes on a plane, the airline may have certain procedures in place to make sure you can travel safely.

Below, we’ve included some suggestions for travelling with ashes, as well as the policies of some of the more popular airlines within Australia.

Please note: Rules may vary between airlines. It’s always best to contact your airline before your flight to learn about any additional rules or requirements for travelling with ashes.

Containers for safely travelling with human ashes

Generally speaking, the crematorium will supply you with a sealed urn for ashes, so that your loved one’s remains can be safely transported.

If you’re travelling via plane, please remember that the urn will need to be scanned by an x ray machine, so do not attempt to take ashes aboard in a metal container. You should also avoid carrying ashes in a fragile urn, such as one made of glass, as the urn should be able to withstand any knocks, bumps or turbulence along the way.

If your loved one’s ashes are being stored in a metal or fragile container, you will need to store them in a more durable temporary urn that can pass through an x ray scanner.

Travelling interstate with ashes

Urns can be checked in with your luggage or can be stored as carry-on. We highly recommend that you keep the urn with you as carry-on so that it can’t be lost if your suitcase goes missing. Most airlines require that urns being taken as carry-on be wholly contained inside a suitable bag that conforms to the standard size and weight limits of carry-on baggage. Neither the urn, nor this bag should be opened during the flight.

Many airlines also require official documentation confirming that the contents of the urn are human ashes. Documentation may be obtained from a funeral director or the crematorium prior to your flight.

While, out of respect, airlines don’t typically open urns during security screening, they may still ask you to open any outer bags or containers that the urn is stored in.

To help you prepare for travelling with ashes via plane, here are the policies of some of the most popular airlines in Australia:

Taking ashes on a Qantas flight 

  • Ashes may be taken on a Qantas flight as either checked-in or carry-on luggage
  • The container must be properly sealed and air-tight to prevent leakage
  • The container must be free of all contaminants, such as soil
  • The container will need to be screened, and the packaging inspected—though the airline will not open the urn itself
  • Passengers must supply official documentation from the crematorium, confirming that the contents of the urn are human ashes
  • If taken as carry-on, the weight of the container cannot exceed 7kg

 Taking ashes on a Virgin Australia flight

The container may be stored either as carry-on or checked baggage. A funeral urn that is to be carried into the cabin must adhere to the following conditions:

  • The ashes must be contained in a sealed container of such construction that there can be no risk of accidental spillage
  • The passenger must provide a letter from the funeral director or crematorium, identifying the contents as human remains
  • The urn must be wholly contained inside a suitable carry-on bag that conforms to carry-on baggage size and weight limits
  • The urn must pass through security screening. While the passenger will not be required to open the urn during this screening, any outer bag or packaging must be opened so that security can view the container
  • Both the bag and the urn must remain closed for the duration of the flight

Taking ashes on an Emirates flight

  • Ashes may be carried as checked or carry-on baggage
  • The container must be strong, safe and hermetically sealed (airtight), and must be sufficiently cushioned in a suitable outer box or case to protect against turbulence, shock or damage.
  • The container must be free of contaminants, such as soil
  • If transported as checked-in luggage, the container and packaging may be inspected, but there are no clearance requirements for presenting a death or cremation certificate
  • If transported as carry-on luggage, Emirates requires that the passenger provide either the original death certificate or cremation certificate, or the original passport of the deceased
  • The urn will be subject to baggage security screening, as per standard airport handling procedures

Taking ashes on a Jetstar flight

Unlike the previous three airline, Jetstar’s procedures surrounding travelling with ashes are a little more relaxed:

  • There’s no need to declare ashes, as they are not considered dangerous goods
  • No documentation is required
  • The ashes must be properly stored in a sealed container to prevent spillage
  • The urn may need to be stored in the overhead compartment, so be sure to transport your loved one’s ashes in a sturdy container

Taking human ashes overseas

While there are no requirements for importing human ashes into Australia, the same airline requirements will still apply as when travelling interstate.

When taking human ashes overseas, or importing them into Australia, there are some rules that you’ll need to be aware of. The following information has been supplied by the Australian Border Force:

  • When bringing ashes into or out of the country, the container must be free of all contaminants, such as soil
  • If the container is made of wood, it must be declared to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment before arrival or upon departure
  • You do not need to declare human ashes on arrival in Australia through the Incoming Passenger Card
  • If the human ashes are imported as, or with, unaccompanied personal effects (UPEs), they will be cleared as your UPEs
  • If the human ashes are imported as cargo, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will facilitate clearance without the need for any written declaration

If you are taking human ashes overseas, we highly recommend that you research the local laws for transporting ashes into the country. Contact the relevant embassy or consulate for more information.

You can find a list of embassies and consulates at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

When travelling with ashes, it’s best to be prepared

The loss of a loved one can be a stressful time for those who have been left behind, and transporting ashes interstate or overseas can add to that stress.

Thankfully, most airlines are very understanding of this difficult time, and will work to make the process easy for you. To ensure that your loved one’s final journey is as safe, straight forward and respectful as possible, we recommend that you get in contact with your airline prior to your flight, as well as with relevant consulates if you’re travelling overseas. By collecting the relevant information before you reach the airport, you can ensure that the ashes are stored in an appropriate container, and you have all the relevant documentation to reduce the chances of problems arising.

Please remember that not all staff at the airport will necessarily have experience with the rules surrounding travelling with ashes, so it’s best to allow extra travel time in case you run into trouble. You may also wish to print out relevant information from official websites to help streamline the process as much as possible and clear up any misunderstandings.

If you’re looking for more information about which urn to choose, either as a temporary container for travel, or as a more permanent memorial for your loved one, please download our Urn Catalogue today to view your options.