Guide to providing air funeral transport

Air funeral transport
Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash
Service delivery

Requests for air funeral transport are becoming increasingly common. The growth in migratory movements and the ease of travel to any point in the world oblige funeral service providers to offer an efficient funeral transport service for the repatriation of a corpse.

Requirements for air funeral transport

The repatriation of a corpse is the sole decision of the deceased’s family, although it can also be requested by an insurance company or a consulate. Usually, the funeral transport is carried out by plane and is a costly and complex procedure because it depends on the laws in force in each country and the requirements of international health and safety regulations.

In order to organise air funeral transport, it is necessary to have the following documentation:

  • Application for repatriation of the family
  • Original passport of the deceased
  • Medical certificate of death
  • Official death certificate
  • Original burial licence
  • Embalming certificate
  • Consular letter

Some of these documents may be provided by the family of the deceased. Although it depends on the diplomatic agreements between the different countries, the national embassies and consulates are usually responsible for carrying out all the relevant formalities with the local authorities and providing all the necessary documentation to authorise the transfer of the body or the ashes of the corpse.

Finally, before starting the air funeral transport, undertakers need to know at which airport the remains will arrive, in which cemetery the deceased will be buried, and which person or undertaker will take care of the remains in the country of destination.

Cost of shipping a dead body by plane

Air funeral transport is not cheap. The international funeral transportation costs depend on the distance, weight and technical specifications of each airline, but some European insurers say it can be around 6,000 euros, while in the United States it can be as much as 12,000 euros.

This price refers to the transfer of a coffin. In the case of ashes, the cost of repatriation is considerably reduced as there are no health requirements beyond the essential bureaucratic formalities.

The relatives of the deceased must bear the costs of burial or cremation, in addition to the funeral transport. For this reason, most countries, aware of the complex and costly nature of such procedures, recommend taking out travel insurance before travelling abroad to cover the eventuality of death abroad.

Formalities for air funeral transport

When repatriating a corpse, it is important to know the legal requirements of the destination country. This information can be obtained from the relevant embassy or consulate, which will usually also provide the necessary documents to initiate the process.

Depending on the reason for death, especially in cases of violent death, judicial authorisation may be required to transfer the remains or even to carry out an autopsy.
Once the bureaucratic formalities have been completed, the body is prepared in accordance with health requirements. Most countries share the requirement to embalm the body before air funeral transport, although it is preferable to check conditions with embassies.

The coffin for the air funeral transport must be made of zinc and properly sealed.

In some cases there are exceptions. Countries that are signatories to the Strasbourg and Berlin agreements allow the embalming process to be skipped as long as the country of origin does not require it. In these cases, the accompanying Mortuary Safe-conduct is deemed to be valid and entry must be authorised without hindrance, regardless of whether the body has been embalmed or not.

The coffin for the air funeral transport must be made of zinc and properly sealed, a procedure that must be supervised by the consulate or embassy in order to issue a record of the sealing.

In addition to these basic conditions, some airlines require that the coffin must be placed inside a wooden casket to disguise its contents and label the packaging with full details of the sender and recipient. It is therefore important to check the airline’s conditions for funeral transport, which are usually carried out in the baggage hold of scheduled aircraft or in the cargo hold, depending on the route and the internal rules of each airline.

In the case of international funeral transport of ashes, no sanitary requirements are necessary. The ashes are transported by air in the ashes box labelled with the name of the deceased and can be carried in the hold or even in the cabin as hand luggage.

Repatriation of covid deceased

Many countries do not allow covid-19 transport of the deceased and are requiring a medical certificate stating that the cause of death was not due to a contagious disease.

Air funeral transport protocols require embalming, but most countries do not recommend the use of thanatopraxy techniques on the corpses of people who have died from the coronavirus. In this case, some countries recommend, if possible, transfer by land and sea as long as transitional preservation techniques that do not involve an invasive procedure can be performed on the corpse.

How to simplify a repatriation process

Considering that organising air funeral transport can be a daunting task due to the enormous number of legal conditions involved, the best way to simplify the process is to have a specialised intermediary.

Through World Funeral Net you can access funeral transport services in collaboration with other funeral providers thanks to a simple system of transfer alliances.

World Funeral Net is a global digital platform that works locally to connect funeral providers with other companies, embassies, banks and insurers. It is the essential tool for those funeral homes that want to continue to grow and expand their business model but need a boost to be able to access services globally.

Through World Funeral Net you can access funeral transport services in collaboration with other funeral providers thanks to a simple system of transfer alliances. There is no longer any reason to refuse a repatriation service: your funeral home takes care of the first part of the service (getting the documentation, preparing the body and transferring it to the airport) and thanks to World Funeral Net, you can put out to tender the completion of the service in the destination country.

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