Transporting ashes/cremains through airport security
March 2, 2009 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Taking a cat's ashes through security or checking them - will there be issues?

I'm going to visit friends in my former adopted hometown later this week. As some of you may remember, my cat recently passed away, and we had him cremated. Since he joined my household when I lived in that city, I'd like to bring some of his ashes back and have a small ceremony with my friends there who knew him.

What I don't need is a problem with the TSA on the way out at 6 in the morning if they find it in my carryon, or if I check a bag and security finds it there. I still have time to ship to a friend, but that seems like overkill. My boyfriend says "You are not the first person to have cremains going through security, trust me" but I have no confidence in the intelligence of most TSA workers and I would be devastated if they were confiscated and if I missed my plane I would be livid. Plus, I worry about bursting into tears, which will only make things worse.

What method should I choose?
posted by micawber to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
How much volume are you talking about?

I'd probably just check them, since those bags won't get the same scrutiny as a carry on bag would.

It's not like they will trigger a drug dog, so they should never even be looked at in checked baggage.

And not all TSA people are idiots, so even in carryon you stand an OK shot. I took rocks on the plane pre-911 and got them on fine after opening the bag to show them they were rocks (just neat rocks I found on vacation, nothing special).

Sorry about the cat.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2009

Here's the word direct from TSA. You'll be fine bringing it on the plane. Print this page out and bring it with you.
posted by nitsuj at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2009

Also: don't tell them it's a cat. It's none of their business; just let them assume it's a human.

Also worth noting: Some airlines do not allow cremated remains as checked baggage so please check with your air carrier before attempting to transport a crematory container in checked baggage.
posted by nitsuj at 2:45 PM on March 2, 2009

I have take human cremains through airline security and was treated with nothing but respect and kindness. Even when I did get a bit teary-eyed at one point.

If you see someone taking a sidelong glance on the box, quietly tell them that it contains cremated remains and leave it at that. If it has a label on it that says as much, even better. They don't need to know who they belong too.
posted by divka at 2:51 PM on March 2, 2009

OP did say, "some of his ashes," so I wasn't thinking they would be in the original crematory container. I figured a little storage box and no one would ever know or ask. But would suck if checked baggage was lost, which is probably why the airlines don't allow checking them.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2009

A lot of my customers have done this and none have had a problem. (Although this is just a data point, not an official endorsement)

You are supposed to be allowed to take ashes, but as pet's ashes often returned inside of a clear plastic bag, I would keep the ashes in a clear plastic bag as well, that way in case they ask, the ashes will be easily visible.
posted by Vaike at 3:06 PM on March 2, 2009

The airline that employs me asks that passengers carrying cremated remains (be they human or otherwise) bring them in their carryon baggage rather than checked, for the same reason we ask people to bring their medication in their carry-on.

Namely, we don't want to be responsible for losing someone's remains when a bag is misplaced or damaged.

It's not a problem at all.
posted by Rendus at 3:16 PM on March 2, 2009

thanks, everyone. it didn't even occur to me that the TSA would have an official procedure or I would have looked first.
posted by micawber at 6:07 PM on March 2, 2009

We asked the same questions when we took my mom from the US to Canada.

DO NOT check a bag containing cremains. Use a carryon instead. Some airlines ask that you identify the cremains as such. We just told them at the check-in desk. (No need to say that it is a cat; just say cremains.)
posted by Drasher at 5:08 AM on March 3, 2009

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