Moving A Corpse Across Several States-Legal And Financial Questions

What is a fast, reasonably priced, legal way to move a dead, and un-enbalmed human through several states to the one containing their burial plot?

The airlines websites have not been helpful in the least. Or would trains be the way to go? I’m assuming that the deceased cannot go Greyhound.

Any help is much appreciated.

I’d ask the person who currently has possession of the body for advice. And call the airlines and freight companies (800-716-7608 looks like a good bet for train shipping). You’ve got nothing to lose.

Depending on the distance, I’d even consider renting a large van and driving the body myself.

The body is still breathing at this point. But, I like to plan ahead.

I was hoping there was a Doper who had some secret I missed, or some insider knowledge. The last estimate(IIRC by plane) to get the corpse from Boca Raton, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was $1500. As a ticket for a live passenger on the same flight is roughly a tenth of that (or less), I assumed that there must be a cheaper way. I could ship an equivalent size and weight package for much less. What is it that’s so expensive about shipping the dead?

Keeping this thread in mind-are you planning some nefarious activity, Doc?

Caution - do not try to check a body through; at least, don’t try this with Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines will not accept human remains as checked baggage; however, a Customer may take cremated remains onboard as a carryon item under certain conditions.” I wonder if a specific event prompted this rule?

GuinastasiaNefarious? Nah. I’ll be inheritting cool stuff from my dad by completely legitimate means after he dies of natural causes. Considering his current state, I give him three weeks at the outside.

I want to transport his remains back to Philly for burial in the family plot. We need to find a way to afford that. Jewish tradition is against cremation. But the cost of transporting cremains is roughly $0.00 . Mom can just box up the container and include it as checked luggage on her flight to Philly.

I’d prefer not to cremate my dad. If I can find a cheap way to get his body up here, we won’t have to cremate him.

Papermache Prince None of the airline websites I looked at had a human remains section on their website.

By excluding “Robert Frost” I was able to find a very useful cite on home burial. If we can get a burial transit permit, anybody can legally drive the body to Philly in van or station wagon. However, I’m unclear whether Florida law allows uch a permit to be issued to a person who is not - a licensed hearse driver, funeral director, or cemetery owner. Even if this is the case, having somebody become a licensed hearse driver, or a temporary funeral director (this costs $200), may still be cheaper than flying the body home.

OTOH If I can dig the grave with some friends, I could try to claim status as a direct disposer and thus be eligible for a permit.

I seem to have reached the point where I need free legal advice. As the SDMB is not the place to seek free legal advice, could somebody please suggest a place that is? I’ve come across several consumer aid agencies specializing in mortuary services, but none in PA or FL.

I do onsite calibration and service of force measurement equipment. One of my customers is Delta Air Cargo. At times, I’ll go to their warehouse on the airport grounds and work on their stuff. It’s hard to ignore that there are coffins among the other cargo: live animals, fresh flowers, food items and all sorts of other priority shipments.

I looked at their website and it appears the service you need will cost you a reasonable $285…If I’ve read it correctly.

Don’t forget to factor in the services of mortuary personnel at each end of the trip.

One group I found in your area that may be helpful is the local affilliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance:

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
1906 Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, PA 19103-5793


Thank you! The linked page says “family members” meaning that, unlike some others they are willing to deal with people other than funeral directors. After boxing dad up to Delta’s shipping specifications, my sister can drive him to the airport in her SUV.

Dewey Finn

Thank you very much as well. I don’t know how I missed that site.

Go watch the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”. Might give you a few ideas.


A discussion of my father bringing up the phrase “Little Miss Sunshine” made me laugh out loud. He’s where I get my pessimism from.

RE Delta

A quick call reveals that the website is misleading. They deal only with funeral homes. I wonder how much the ‘funeral director association recommended coffin with liner’ costs. I’m guessing that’s where the bulk of the $1000 markup is. I cannot see spending a grand on a transport coffin when we have always planned, in accordance with Jewish tradition, to bury dad in the cheapest coffin the funeral home has.

I was surprised that the website mentioned family members as approved body transportation. The specifis probably vary state to state but I’m pretty sure you’re going to need a funeral home to transport the body during each leg unless/until cremated.

My ex went via train. I don’t recall the price (his wife made the arrangements and she was stone broke). I believe we did the funeral 7-10 days after he died.

Is “unembalmed” the key word here? Bodies don’t stay, um, fresh, for more than a day or two. After that, you probably aren’t going to want them in the back of the station wagon…

I thought American Airlines would transport bodies.

Here is a story about problems shipping bodies by air, albeit to Mexico.

Judaism places a great value on the body being buried intact, including blood in the veins. There’s also an emphasis on returning to the earth-no sealed coffins, and no embalming. Several of the sites I’ve visited recommend dry ice. You need to be careful not to give the deceased freezer burn, but it can be done.

Well obviously you have to make it look like an accident.

Accident? Bah. We practicioners of shinanju can kill a man and make it look like natural causes.

RE Flying

The FCA says that the corpse containers used for flying cost under $200. So, we have $350 from the airline plus $200 for the tupperware plus $950 for unknown. An e-mail from the FCA (Not the Ferengi Commerce Association. We are not slicing and vacuum packing my dad) says that we can get a burial transit permit on our own. That permit allows us to drive dad’s body from Boca Raton to Philadelphia on our own.

This isn’t something you or your family arranges for through a specific airline; it’s a service the funeral home arranges. Airlines have specific regulations governing the transport of human remains, and they have special departments that handle the arrangements with the funeral home. The funeral home, in turn, knows how to prepare the body for transport, and what paperwork the airline and receiving home will require.

Basically, what happens is that the funeral home in the area where your father passes makes arrangements with both an airline and a funeral home in the destination city, who picks up the body and transports and prepares it for burial.

One further caveat: Unless everything works out perfectly in terms of flight times and so forth, there is little, if any chance that your father will be able to be buried within 24 hours. 48 to 72 hours is a more reasonable timeframe.

Check with the funeral home that will be taking care of your father.


The FCA says we can make things cheaper by arranging things through the funeral home in Philly, rather than one in Boca. It’s worth a shot.

Getting the name of the one in Philly is one of the things I have to do when I call my mom tonight. I have many other questions for them.