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Old 02-26-2019, 08:43 AM
davidmich is offline
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How is a human corpse brought through the airport onto a flight?


Hi

What are the individual steps taken by someone who wants to escort human remains/a corpse onto a commercial airliner? I've never seen caskets brought through the front doors of an airport. How are they actually brought in and then through customs and into the cargo hold? I'm specifically asking about escorted remains as opposed of shipping them on a cargo plane.
I look forward to your feedback
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Old 02-26-2019, 09:09 AM
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Ha ha… Friend of mine was on a flight when the local hearse backed into the 737; put a small hole in the fuselage near the cargo door. They waited 4 hours while the pilots went and got a tracing of the hole (days before digital cameras) faxed it to the airline mechanics, and finally got the all clear to fly with the minor damage. But this was a regional airport with minimal security in the days before 9-11 paranoia. I imagine someone saying "That's Joe, dead 5 days and still causing trouble..."

I know of at least 2 instances where my relatives had to travel with an urn full of ashes recently, and they have some sort of protocol for that. Visual inspection of the content, I think.
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Old 02-26-2019, 10:03 AM
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While waiting for a flight in Phoenix last June, I saw a van pull up near a plane. 4 baggage handlers removed the casket and wrestled it into the forward cargo compartment. The casket had a large orange tag tape to it that said "TSA OKAY".
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Old 02-26-2019, 10:44 AM
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I don't think they are required to be escorted if they are in the cargo hold. The military will send an officer to escort the coffin to the burial site.
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Old 02-26-2019, 07:10 PM
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I am sure the airlines will have a protocol. Ask them. When my wife escorted her step-mother, who had died in FL, to NY for burial next to her (my wife's) father, the Miami funeral home and the NY cemetery made all the arrangements.
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Old 02-26-2019, 07:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
Hi

What are the individual steps taken by someone who wants to escort human remains/a corpse onto a commercial airliner? I've never seen caskets brought through the front doors of an airport. How are they actually brought in and then through customs and into the cargo hold? I'm specifically asking about escorted remains as opposed of shipping them on a cargo plane.
I look forward to your feedback
.... use a wheelchair and tell the attendants that "she's very deaf"...
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Old 02-26-2019, 08:00 PM
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I don't think they are required to be escorted if they are in the cargo hold. The military will send an officer to escort the coffin to the burial site.
Not all corpses brought on flights are military.
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Old 02-26-2019, 08:59 PM
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I have experience with this, bodies in caskets are cargo/freight essentially. A little special handling is required, of course, but that's what they are for the airline. Its not uncommon for airlines to transport bodies, and though procedures may vary, they all have them in place. As far as how the actually get to the plane, the hearse goes through a cargo gate, usually around the side of the terminal and drives directly to the plane. That was how it worked last time I witnessed it. Might not be that simple or easy these days though.
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Old 02-26-2019, 09:29 PM
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Since they're traveling one way, I guess you could say they are dead-heading ...
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Old 02-26-2019, 10:10 PM
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I don't think they are required to be escorted if they are in the cargo hold. The military will send an officer to escort the coffin to the burial site.
FYI, if you want to see a dramatization of the process of escorting the body of a member of the military, look for the HBO Film Taking Chance. It's very good, and based on a true story.
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Old 02-27-2019, 12:11 AM
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Funeral homes transport bodies every day, and the airlines have routine procedures. The casket is just another piece of cargo in the hold.
And, just like the other luggage, they sometimes get lost.

When my grandmother died (30 years ago), the funeral home shipped her casket on a freight airline, and my family flew on a passenger flight an hour later.
We arrived on time..........the casket did not.

Thus making a true case of the expression "being late to your own funeral".
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Old 02-27-2019, 06:12 AM
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My friend in Japan had a boss who died on a business trip to the States. He and the family went over and arraigned to take the body back. It takes making arrangements but it’s pretty standard stuff.

My grandmother died in Utah and was buried in California. We joked about putting her on top of a car and driving, but we just had her flown instead. No one accompanied her
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Old 02-27-2019, 06:41 AM
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.... use a wheelchair and tell the attendants that "she's very deaf"...
My nephew is an airline pilot and said something like this happened. There was a very elderly couple, and they figure the husband died en route. The wife was apparently either in denial or trying to hide the fact to avoid hassles. Airline personnel discovered this when they were switching planes. So then they had to take the body away (local morgue?) and there would be serious arrangements needed to have it shipped to his "final destination" for this remote location. My nephew felt really sorry that the wife had to endure this added hassle, but rules are rules.

(So I wondered "is that because a dead person could not evacuate the plane in an emergency?")
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:40 AM
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TSA will want to pat down the corpse.

Empty its pockets into the tray.


Last edited by aceplace57; 02-27-2019 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 02-27-2019, 09:15 AM
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There was a very elderly couple, and they figure the husband died en route.
I've heard that nobody en route has ever been allowed to die in an airplane.
The reason is that you aren't dead when you die.....You can't be legally dead until a licensed doctor signs a form declaring that you are dead.

So if you're dead, but there's no doctor on the plane who has a license to practice in the jurisdiction where the plane lands, then you aren't dead yet.
The procedure is to place a blanket and oxygen mask over the body, and when the plane lands, let local authorities take over.

Cite: a conversation I once had with a flight attendant at a party about 25 years ago, accompanied by more beer than I can handle now.
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Old 02-27-2019, 09:56 AM
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I've heard that nobody en route has ever been allowed to die in an airplane.
The reason is that you aren't dead when you die.....You can't be legally dead until a licensed doctor signs a form declaring that you are dead.

So if you're dead, but there's no doctor on the plane who has a license to practice in the jurisdiction where the plane lands, then you aren't dead yet.
The procedure is to place a blanket and oxygen mask over the body, and when the plane lands, let local authorities take over.

Cite: a conversation I once had with a flight attendant at a party about 25 years ago, accompanied by more beer than I can handle now.
I gather they figured it out when they tried to move him from his seat at the stop-over.
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Old 02-27-2019, 12:02 PM
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"As far as how the actually get to the plane, the hearse goes through a cargo gate, usually around the side of the terminal and drives directly to the plane. "

Thanks guestchaz. This goes somewhat towards what I was asking for. I understand that funeral homes usually take care of things like this. It was the procedure through cargo customs and loading the casket into the cargo hold that interested me.
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Old 02-27-2019, 01:18 PM
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I know of at least 2 instances where my relatives had to travel with an urn full of ashes recently, and they have some sort of protocol for that. Visual inspection of the content, I think.
I did this in 2007, taking it as carry-on. The container went through the X-ray machine and they said, "We're getting a reading of human remains." Don't ask me how they manage that out of a box of ashes. But I knew I had to have a certificate from the funeral home indicating this was human cremains, I showed it to them, and then was on my way.
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Old 02-27-2019, 05:13 PM
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I have experience with this, bodies in caskets are cargo/freight essentially. A little special handling is required, of course, but that's what they are for the airline. Its not uncommon for airlines to transport bodies, and though procedures may vary, they all have them in place. As far as how the actually get to the plane, the hearse goes through a cargo gate, usually around the side of the terminal and drives directly to the plane. That was how it worked last time I witnessed it. Might not be that simple or easy these days though.
There is no way they would let a hearse go air-side at my passenger terminal. Either the body will go on a cargo plane, or it will be transferred to airport staff passenger-side.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chappachula View Post
I've heard that nobody en route has ever been allowed to die in an airplane.
The reason is that you aren't dead when you die.....You can't be legally dead until a licensed doctor signs a form declaring that you are dead.

So if you're dead, but there's no doctor on the plane who has a license to practice in the jurisdiction where the plane lands, then you aren't dead yet.
The procedure is to place a blanket and oxygen mask over the body, and when the plane lands, let local authorities take over.

Cite: a conversation I once had with a flight attendant at a party about 25 years ago, accompanied by more beer than I can handle now.
That implies the assumption that nobody has died in an airplane where there was a doctor licensed to practice in the landing location, which pretty much leaves out internal flights in any country where doctors aren't locally licensed and any locations where a doctor doesn't need a local license in order to perform emergency procedures or declare someone dead. It's not so much an urban legend as a case of beer-fueled speculation based on even more assumptions than beer.
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Last edited by Nava; 02-28-2019 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:25 AM
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That implies the assumption that nobody has died in an airplane where there was a doctor licensed to practice in the landing location, which pretty much leaves out internal flights in any country where doctors aren't locally licensed and any locations where a doctor doesn't need a local license in order to perform emergency procedures or declare someone dead. It's not so much an urban legend as a case of beer-fueled speculation based on even more assumptions than beer.
I assume it's the same as the first aid advice to not stop resuscitation efforts until a doctor has had a look. A non-medical person is probably not qualified to state a person is dead unless it's really really obvious. And the last thing you want is to find out that you gave up on a person a bit too early. So, at the least - do no harm.

In all those movies, don't they ask "is there a doctor on board?"
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:05 AM
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I can tell you that they really do call for a doctor on board airline flights.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:38 AM
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Funeral homes transport bodies every day, and the airlines have routine procedures.
Yeah, I worked in a funeral home in Oakland once, and several times I was assigned to drive bodies across the bay to SFO. Actually, as I recall, I believe I took them to some kind of special transport company, not directly to the airport.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:57 AM
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TSA will want to pat down the corpse.

Empty its pockets into the tray.

I think even the TSA has requirements for treating the dead with respect. There's a stiff penalty involved.
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Old 02-28-2019, 11:43 AM
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There is no way they would let a hearse go air-side at my passenger terminal. Either the body will go on a cargo plane, or it will be transferred to airport staff passenger-side.
No, sorry, I didn't mean at the passenger terminal, the two times I saw a casket being loaded and unloaded, they taxied the plane to the end of the building away from places a passenger might see.
Again, this was pre 911 so I wouldn't be surprised if procedures changed since then
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Old 02-28-2019, 12:36 PM
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Funeral homes transport bodies every day, and the airlines have routine procedures. The casket is just another piece of cargo in the hold.
And, just like the other luggage, they sometimes get lost.
Great-Aunt Mehetabel died while visiting relatives on the other coast. Just before the funeral,the family had the casket opened for a private viewing, and to their surprise found a four-star admiral in full dress uniform. Making the best of a bad situation, the family buried the admiral, in the hope that Great-Aunt Mehetabel would receive a twenty-one gun salute...
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Old 02-28-2019, 07:06 PM
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Cite: a conversation I once had with a flight attendant at a party about 25 years ago, accompanied by more beer than I can handle now.
Are you sure you haven't confused that conversation with the final scene from Midnight Cowboy?
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Old 02-28-2019, 07:46 PM
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I think even the TSA has requirements for treating the dead with respect. There's a stiff penalty involved.
I see what you did there.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:14 PM
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TSA will want to pat down the corpse.

Empty its pockets into the tray.

Only if its all dead.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:26 AM
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When I worked for the mortuary in the late 90's, we'd take the casket (sometimes a simple wooden box) to a location about a mile away from the airport. It was taken directly from our van with a forklift and we'd sign some paperwork to confirm the transfer. According to my friend, who'd been doing this for years, they transported the casket in another van to the plane. Sometimes, if the flight was delayed, we'd have to return and pick up the casket after a certain amount of time had passed.

This was pre 9/11, so the morticians would certify that only the deceased was in the casket or box. The caskets that were used had locks. I don't remember if here were tape seals also or not.
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Old 03-06-2019, 03:58 PM
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Need answer fast?
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Old 03-08-2019, 11:33 AM
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Little off topic but....I was a truck driver before retirement and was once told by dispatch when loading a load of frozen food to leave three feet of space at the back of the trailer. Then was sent to a funeral home to return another driver that had died on the job back home. It's a cold hearted way to look at it but at that point you're just freight.
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Old 03-08-2019, 09:30 PM
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So, does TSA make the deceased take off their shoes?
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