Posts: 244
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2004 6:50 am

Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 7:37 am

My brother in law is a Funeral Director, his firm has an international "ship out" contract. In the event someone passes away in AZ but this is not home, his job is to prepare the body and forward it on to the hometown undertaker. His outfit ships hundreds of people every year on regular commercial flights. It's done at night, and is handled through the freight dept. I wonder if the people taking these flights have any idea what is just below them in the cargo hold as they sleep? I went with him the other night to the Delta cargo area, and he filled out the paperwork, did a container weigh in, and the "H. R." (human remains) were on there way! Its a special wood and cardboard box that says "extreme care" on the outside, and "head" at the head end so it will be handled properly. As I understand it this is the most profitable cargo an airline ships, a dead body! $600 one way to ATL and no complaints about the food.
Posts: 1771
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 3:40 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 7:50 am

Nothing new. HUM on airliners are fairly common, and not just at night - all times of the day.

I was a ramper for quite a while and dealt with quite a few of them. The worst are the small ones ....... children. They can get to you if you think about it. But for the most part, you just treat them as cargo -- cargo which can smell like embalming fluid.

There's special handling instructions for them, sure.... but really, they're not that much different.
"Talk to me, Goose..."
Posts: 2898
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:50 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 7:59 am

well, I had once a NIGHTMARE flight. It started in Rhodes, we were prepared for the return journey and ready to leave; BUT there was a little problem. On the tarmac in front of our a/c were 2 coffins left- the shipping document was incorrect. So everyone on the right side could actually see the coffins... Great for people with fear of flying...

And the worst part of it, the family was waiting in Germany to get asap the coffins for the ceremony ... But we had to leave without them- sadly...

But what really break my heart, was the circumstances... But that had nothing to do with this topic!
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2003 12:10 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 8:03 am


As Goose said, shipping bodies is nothing new. I used to work at AWA and now at DL, and bodies come in at least once a month at all times of the day. The positioning of the body is important, the head goes forward so that the fluids do not leak out. It is definitely a money maker for the airline; and employees have respect for dealing with these.
Posts: 1622
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2004 11:53 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 8:10 am

$600 is a lot, most of the ones I see are generally $300. In most cases where I work (FL) there are 1 to 2 a flight. Recently there has been a few military escorted HR's. Also in some cases passengers escort (family members) the body to its burial place. There are certain procedures like making sure they are sitting on the Captain side so they can not see the body loaded and unloaded. For the most part though people I am sure don't know what is being loaded and unloaded unless they have either worked for an airline or have ever had to do the shipping themselves.
It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.
Posts: 1875
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 4:43 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 10:14 am

I like the paupers or donated corpses to med schools. Have found some that DO NOT have all the safeguards as others going to own funerals. Like the body is only on the tray inside a cardboard box and as you pull the box forward to get it out of a wet bin - it opens. Lunch anyone.
Less sarcasm and more thought equal better understanding
Posts: 203
Joined: Sat Jan 06, 2001 1:59 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 11:12 am

We handle HR's just about everyday. Most are a pain because they weigh so much - I think the worst I've dealt with was like 490lbs. Try moving that around in bin 3 on a 732! Heard a story once about a guy almost falling through the top of a box that was only carrying a body bag - that would have been nasty....!
Posts: 374
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2003 6:44 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 12:24 pm

I guess you could say that I have everyone beat in this regards. I worked for DL and I am now a partner in a funeral home. It's just part of the service we provide as a funeral home and part of the service the airlines provide.

However, due to the increased usage of RJs, it is now a lot harder to ship human remains by air to a large part of the country. Last problem MEM-CRP. AA doesn't take cargo from MEM and no-one else serves Corpus Christi with anything larger than an RJ. And there are no interline agreements between airlines when it comes to freight (human remains). So, the overland companies are now taking up the slack. That makes it a lot harder on families.
Always a pallbearer, never a corpse.
Posts: 6789
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2000 3:33 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 12:35 pm

Reminds me of an old favorite,

"Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!"

name the flick.
Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
Posts: 356
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2004 1:41 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 12:47 pm

Monty Python, Holy Grail-- A fave of mine.

"I'm not dead! I'm getting better!"

TheGov made a good point about RJ use. I think if I had to transport a body, I'd much rather organize some over-land transport (FedEx or what have you) rather than watch the spectacle of some rampers trying to shoe-horn a casket into the hold of one of those smaller jets.

[Edited 2004-02-06 04:49:05]
Maintain thine airspeed, lest the Earth rise up and smite thee.
Posts: 82
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2002 2:12 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 3:04 pm

I got one for ya...

working shipping and receiving for a certain friendly low cost carrier in YHM. I used to spend a lot of saturdays alone in the hangar waiting for comat and RON parts to arrive from YYC. I had never seen a crate with a coffin in it. So I'm sitting in the hangar when I suddenly realized that the ramp guys had left a big crate on the belt loader.. Now I thought it was an APU or a Transmission or something so I grabbed my trusty exacto knife and I ran and jumped on it to open the crate and receive the part. Imagine my surprise when I read "Mrs. Lang" on the crate and "human remains, handle with respect" on the box. I jumped off of it and wound up hanging out with the guys in the maint van all afternoon, no way in hell I was gonna be spending the rest of the day with a corpse I nearly opened and stored next to the main wheels...

That's my hangar horror story...
If it Ain't Boeing, I ain't Going!
Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 4:13 pm

It could be a lot worse.

One time I had to shoehorn somebody I knew into the belly of an airplane, because he had commited scuicide the night before.

The body was being shipped to the embalmer and had been brought over on his uncle's fishing boat by his uncle and his dad.

They kept the body in the freezer hold, so he was frozen solid by the time he got to the airport.
Posts: 270
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2001 4:03 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Fri Feb 06, 2004 6:44 pm

Hello, FedEx will not ship Human Remains, and that's straight from the manual. Right after 9-11, I was working out of the only United station with a Human cadaver. It sat there for a couple of days, then someone else came on shift, called their dispatch, and was told that they'd been looking for it for days.
Wow, I feel comforted.
Posts: 1286
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2003 3:38 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 2:39 am

I used to work at MAN and for some reason the handling charge for offloading freight was waived for human remains. Not sure why, given that everyone else involved in the process was making money out of it.
Posts: 738
Joined: Sat Aug 19, 2000 5:15 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 2:54 am

I had a bad experience with handling HUM a couple of years ago.
My co-worker and I were taking 2 HUM's off an A319 when one of the cardboard transport coffins broke apart. Needless to say, I saw the deceased man. Not a pretty sight considering that these two HUM's were tradically killed in a trucking accident in Alberta and were coming to Newfoundland for burial, so, the body was beat up badly.
Just last week, the body of Cpl Jamie Murphy was returned to YYT after being killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. His remains were on an AC flight that landed around 12:00pm. There was a full military entourage there to meet the flight.
You have to treat HUM with the best of respect in all cases, but when there is a full military entourage, family members, media, etc, then you really have to be careful.

In life, some days you are the bug..... some days you are the windshield!
Posts: 1447
Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2003 4:33 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 3:04 am

While working for LH cargo in CCU, we once had an incident at the warehouse when an airline (I think the airline was AI) could not take a HUM shipment due to some documents not being in order. Some jerks at the warehouse decided to save space and placed the coffin upright!!!  Nuts

Net result was that the body (apparently a 6 footer) had shrunk to 3 ft by the time it got to destination. Needless to say, shit hit the ceiling...

Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai
Posts: 180
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2004 4:25 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 3:48 am

The heaviest HR that I ever had to deal with came in at 716 lbs. It was loaded in bin 2 of a Delta DC9-32. Talk about hard to get unloaded. In trying to get the thing offloaded, we broke off all of the pull straps, pulled off the cardboard cover, and pulled the wood base out from underneath it. All that was left on the A/C was a huge pink casket with bronze handles. It ended up taking about 5 guys to get it unloaded when it normally would take 2.

Another HR incident that I had was really creepy. I was taking an HR that had just arrived on a flight over to the freight house. Over the years I had gotten into the habit of checking the paperwork that was taped to the top of the shipping container. Quite often the cause of death would be listed on the paperwork. In looking at the paperwork, I noticed that the receiving funeral home paperwork had a New Jersey address but the freight destination label was MEM (this is all taking place in MEM by the way). Obviously something was not right, so we called the origin freight house (IND). They said that shipped out only two HR's that day, one destined for MEM and the other for EWR. Somehow, the destination freight labels or the funeral home paperwork had been misapplied. The only way to figure out which was the correct HR for MEM was to open up the casket. According to the funeral home, we were supposed to receive a 29 year old female and EWR was supposed to receive a 50 year old male. We opened up the casket and of course we had the male. As it turned out, the IND cargo agent had mixed up the freight destination labels. We ended up sending the HR back out the same day, but as it turned out, the poor man's funeral had to be postponed one day so he could be there.
Posts: 180
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2004 4:25 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 3:58 am

FedEx normally will not ship HR's. But in extreme circumstances, exceptions have been made. This past summer, I helped handle the remains of a FedEx employee's deceased son that was being shipped via FedEx.
Posts: 9576
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:09 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:10 am

Still startles me on a walkaround when I see a box of that obvious size being loaded or offloaded.

Still a very disturbing memory after these many years; I went to Tan Son Nhut airport at Saigon just after the Tet offensive of 1968. There was a stack of aluminum shipping coffins, six deep and a hundred yards long. Waiting for shipment home.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User avatar
Posts: 13333
Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2000 1:14 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:28 am

I think Florida to the Northeast (EWR, LGA, JFK) probably carries alot of deceased people, my beloved Grandma came back to NY to be buried after her death in her Winter home in Newport Richie.

I believe CO carries alot of deceased people on their EWR-Tel Aviv flights, I was spotting in the North Area cargo parking lot at EWR a couple years ago and a precession (sp?) of several hundred Othordox or Hisidic (sp?) Jews escorted a body to CO's cargo building.

I think alot of Othordox or hesidic Jews are returned to Israel for burial.
Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
Posts: 357
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2004 3:44 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:49 am

What about a route that is serviced by an ERJ? Is there room for a box and luggage, and is there some special way that the H.R. have to be maneuvered to get in there?

What about on a 767 where the cargo goes on in containers? Does the coffin go in with luggage then?

How does that work?
A318, A320, A332, A333, B1900, B722, B732, B733, B734, B735, B737, B738, B772, CR1, CR2, CR7, CR9, MD80, MD81, MD82, MD8
Posts: 91
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2003 12:13 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 5:33 am

ERJ's do not transport human remains, there isn't room enough for a shipping container. I know I'm a funeral director in Maine and closest airport BGR no longer has mainline jet service so we drive the extra 150 miles to PWM. Boy do I miss the mainline jets. Sometimes we even have to drive as far as BOS because the MD-80's have weight restrictions on HR shipments because of the working area in the luggage compartment.

There was a long thread on this topic about a month ago that had some additional information that might answer some more questions.
Posts: 852
Joined: Tue May 28, 2002 12:06 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 6:22 am

TheGov, AA doesn't serve CRP with anything larger than a CR7. CO has one 735 a day, so that would've sufficed.
Posts: 374
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2003 6:44 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 10:00 am

The incident with AA happened a couple of years back. I think at that time, CO was not serving MEM.
Always a pallbearer, never a corpse.
Posts: 553
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2001 10:39 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 2:38 pm

Hey BGR1962: You think there is a market for an air freight company that specializes in transporting human remains? You could run the aircraft all night long in series of flag stops up and down the east coast, for example. Maybe use an ATR or similiar large turboprop. Crazy idea, I realize.

I have my own H.R. horror story. While commuting from CLT to JAX, I was sitting in a packed full 757 awaiting pushback. I was seated just above the door for the rear cargo hold. The captain addressed the passengers, stating that "we have a minor maintainance paperwork issue that needs to be cleared up." Of course I thought nothing of it, and the rest of the cabin seemed to take the delay in stride. After about 10 minutes I noticed a tug pulling a single bag cart up to the airplane. I stifled a knowing chuckle as 4 rampers hefted a person sized box with the appropriate markings onto the belt loader. As I turned back to my crossword puzzle I was startled by a large thump and a crash... I looked back out my window (along with every passenger on the right side of the 757) and saw the box laying upside down on the ramp and the 4 rampers sprinting away from the scene of the crime. After they came to the conclusion that dead folks won't chase you even if you drop them, they returned to collect the rather damaged remains of the container. Another hour delay ensued as they replaced the shipping container and reloaded the quiet yet troublesome "passenger."

The great part is that no one got wise to what was really happening. When I was asked (I was in uniform) I merely shrugged and said that the box contained "parts." I never let on that they were human rather than airplane related.

Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:02 pm

There was one guy he had to put on the airplane that came over in a 206 in a body bag. We had to put him in the "silver bullet".

He had been ground guiding a forklift that was stacking ISO shipping containers when the stack of, from what I heard, 3 toppled over on top of him.

Thank god we didn't have to open that bag.

But that has been known to happen. They guy I worked for had to open one up one time, because instead of taping the shipping papers to the head end of the outside of the casket like they are supposed to, they pinned it to the guys shirt. So he had to go in and retrieve them.

He also did me a big favor with that guys father I mentioned earlier, he went out and delt with him paying the bill for shipping his son that killed himself the day before.
Posts: 9811
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 3:56 pm

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:15 pm

How does the Health Department from each state actually allow airlines to open caskets? Do the airlines need to have special licenses in order to perform the "open-the-casket-duties"?? Just curious, this sounds like a heath department issue.
A Safe Flight Begins With Quality Maintenance On The Ground.
Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:21 pm

Well, as I mentioned earlier, we typically didn't fly embalmed Caskets, only "raw" bodies that where on their way be be embalmed.

AFAIK most health departments don't allow for shipping of unembalmed bodies, especially interstate. This came up with one guy that died out where I worked. He had to go to town before he could be shipped out of state for the funeral.
Posts: 1771
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2003 3:40 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sat Feb 07, 2004 5:14 pm

I've never dropped a HUM or damaged the crate. The only story of woe when it comes to them is when I had to unload one out of the rear compartment of a 737 - and the crate + body weighed nearly 650 lbs, and was almost 7' long. I'm a tall guy - 6'4" - so scrambling in the rear of a 737 isn't an easy task to begin with.....
"Talk to me, Goose..."
Posts: 91
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2003 12:13 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sun Feb 08, 2004 1:21 am

There is a fair amount of HR transportation on small aircraft. Not sure but I think the smallest a/c used is a Cessna 180.

There is actual a fairly active group of funeral directors called the Flying (ready for this) Funeral Directors. It wasn't that uncommon 15-20 years ago for us to get some one shipped up that way. They were generally short flights intra New England or something like that. But I think for the most part the FD's doing it, do it to pay for their aircraft (nice tax deduction) and a good number of those who do are even further away from a major airport than I am.

To answer the question about a specialized airline (call the "Night Flyer", hats off to Stephen King, a BGR boy) I don't think it would work, the majors really do a great job with HR transportation. Delta and US Air who I have dealt with couldn't do a better a job, serving the funeral directors out there and always seem to willing to go the extra mile if a family is flying with the remains.
Posts: 628
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2003 5:01 am

RE: Shipping The Dead On A/C

Sun Feb 08, 2004 6:21 am

I heard from a quite reliable aviation administration source here in Nevada that the number 3 export from Clark County ( LAS home county) is human remains!
Hang on tightly, Let go lightly

Popular Searches On Airliners.net

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos