As we become an increasingly mobile and diverse society, careers and retirements take people to all corners of the country and even the world. Funeral directors are left with the task of transporting a loved one home from any part of the world to their family. This includes coordinating cremation at the location of death. While the task may seem complicated and overwhelming for families, today’s modern advancements and committed companies have made the process much easier for funeral directors to coordinate the transportation of a loved one and give families peace of mind.

As technology all around us continues to advance, we have also seen a substantial evolution in the technology used by transportation and shipping services in the funeral industry. Today, cases can be tracked in real time and documents can be generated faster than ever before so no matter where in the world the death occurs, access to that information is immediate. For the funeral director this allows them to have all the information and documentation in front of them within seconds. This saves them time and allows them to have the information for the family immediately.

Making shipping arrangements today is easier than ever before thanks to advances in IT and web applications and the commitment of great transportation and shipping companies. The time it takes to get a loved one home, and how updated information is acquired is playing a big role in putting families at ease. As the airlines change their technology it is often much easier and quicker to book flights and gain real time information regarding schedules or even delays. FBA

Learn more about the top transportation and shipping companies servicing the funeral industry and tips on how to make the transport process easier in this feature editorial.

Blue Skies Aviation Services, a California corporation and a proud member of The California Funeral Directors Association offers world wide “ship outs” of human remains. As a secured transportation provider of human remains, Blue Skies Aviation Services is focused and committed to serving funeral homes with their “ship out” requirements.

Blue Skies promises speed, reliability, professionalism and top of the line customer support. Having direct contact with upper level airline personnel and knowledgeable on world wide destinations (including domestic destinations within the United States), provides Blue Skies Aviation Services with quick access to Asian, Middle Eastern, European and Central American countries.

“Blue Skies Aviation Services extends personalized service backed by 40 years of airline experience. We can get the human remains and cremated remains to most destinations in the world and to main airports within the United States,” states Steven Connolly, Managing Director with Blue Skies Aviation Services.

Blue Skies offers:

• 24/7 service with customer service as priority
number one

• Air waybills are cut by Blue Skies Aviation

• Reduced waiting time at the airport

• Assist the funeral by making calls to receiving party

• Meet and assist funeral homes when drops are made
in San Francisco and Los Angeles

“The advancement of technology in recent years has made it possible for most airlines to move to paperless entries which has allowed the airlines to have immediate access to the documentation (air waybill). This process will reduce the waiting time at the airport when deliveries are done. Using the services of firms like Blue Skies Aviation Services (TSA approved and International Air Transport Association Member) expedites the delivery process with extremely reduced waiting times at the airport,” Steven further explains.

EWA manages the air transportation of human remains for funeral directors nationwide for domestic and international ship-outs.

They also provide the following services:

• Flight cost estimates

• EWA pre-pays the flight charges – funeral home gets
an invoice

• Flight tracking and monitoring

• Known Shipper status assistance

• Consulate paperwork guidance

• Shipping container sales

• Assistance with damage claims

• Spanish translating

“Eagle’s Wings Air has been managing the air transportation of human remains for the last 10 years, working with funeral home professionals across the country for domestic and international ship outs. We have high level relationships with executives from the cargo division of all major airlines. In our vast experience of managing over 132,000 flights, we have become experts in the air travel of human remains,” says Anne Vetter, National Sales Manager with EWA.

If something goes wrong with the flight or there is damage to a casket, EWA is your advocate for resolution. They will help you help your client family get resolution.

11 Tips for Funeral Directors Planning Flights | provided by Anne Vetter, National Sales Manager with Eagle’s Wings Air

1. Scheduling funeral services before the “guest of honor” has arrived.

We at EWA always ask if services are scheduled at destination. If the flight is international, we suggest not scheduling services at least until you have a confirmed flight itinerary. However, flights change. Delays happen. Documents go missing. Mistakes are made. Having experienced these situations firsthand, we always encourage you to suggest to the family to wait until their loved one has arrived to schedule services. Please educate your families on the complexities of international flights. You will save yourself the stress of having to tell them their father will miss his own funeral.

2. Not having the proper paperwork/documents and not verifying with the consulate to get the most current shipping requirements.

You think you have everything you need to ship a body internationally. After all, you’ve done this before. You get to the airport, and the remains are refused because you do not have a certified original copy of the death certificate. You didn’t need one last year when you shipped to the same country, but because you did not check with the country’s consulate, you didn’t know the requirements had changed. You have to get the proper paperwork and get the flight rebooked. Now the estimated arrival is one week later, and the family has to reschedule services and figure out how to pay for additional expenses for the family who traveled to that country. Call the consulate. Every time.

3. Not weighing a shipment when the estimated weight is close to 500 pounds.

A shipment weighing more than 500 pounds certainly complicates things. The price of the flight increases dramatically, and the routing choices are decreased dramatically. If your flight is booked for under 500 pounds (including decedent and shipping container), and it actually weighs more than 500 pounds, when you get to the airport cargo station to drop off, your shipment will be refused. There are several reasons: the airport doesn’t have planes large enough to accommodate an over-sized or overweight shipment, the cargo station simply doesn’t have the manpower to lift and load into the aircraft, or the connecting and/or destination airports or airplanes cannot accommodate your shipment. This will result in a rebooking and a delay, causing further heartache to your client family. Weigh your shipments to get the most accurate weight.

4. Not communicating certain pertinent information when booking the flight.

There is information that needs to be shared at the time of booking that may not seem important to you, but things like disinterred remains, over-sized container dimensions, overweight shipment, high-profile case (celebrity, politician, etc.), military remains (active duty or retired), airline employee or relative of airline employee, any requests by the family, can make a difference in the reservation and/or cost of the flight. Share all information at the time of booking.

5. Not setting the family’s expectations about how long international confirmation can take and sharing a flight itinerary that has not yet been confirmed.

If you are not involved in the air transportation shipping industry, it certainly seems unreasonable that you can’t simply pick up the phone and reserve a flight. Unlike passenger travel, where there is an inventory of seats available, cargo is booked by space (dimensions and weight). There is also limited space for human remains. An airline must confirm that the aircraft is large enough, space is available, and there are not already human remains on board. The max number is two. That’s the delay in reservations for ALL flights, but if you are requesting a flight for an international destination where the domestic airline has to transfer to an international carrier (called an interline shipment), the confirmation will take up to three business days or longer, not including weekends and holidays. The best thing to do in these cases is to set the family’s expectations on how long this process will take. You will not get an instant reservation. Do not share estimated flights or sample routing with the family. Wait until you have the confirmed flight reservation.

6. Shipping personal items with the decedent.

Airline requirements and security measures prohibit shipping anything other than the decedent and burial clothing. Do not include personal items, like jewelry, pictures, keepsakes, memorabilia, etc. When discovered, your shipment will most likely be refused.

7. Having escorts on an interline flight.

International flights are difficult enough without adding the complexity of having family members requesting to escort their loved one home. What may not be realized is that an international interline cargo shipment will have multi-legged flights and non-traditional layover times. With so many moving components to a flight like this, it leaves countless opportunities for delays and errors. I would always suggest not putting your client family through the risk of additional anxiety and the potential for heartache when things don’t go perfectly

8. Not checking the flight status before driving to the airport to pick up.

Checking a flight status is a very easy thing to do. If you were picking up a friend at the airport, you would probably go online to check to see they are arriving on time, especially if you have to drive two hours to the airport. Check the flight status.

9. Always calling the same airline because it’s easier.

It takes time to check routes and pricing on multiple airlines. By looking at multiple airlines you have choices in price and routing, thereby finding the best logistics solution. Either call every airline, or just call EWA.

10. Sending an infant or youth in an adult-sized shipping container.

The average current cost for an adult shipment (under 500 pounds) going from Cleveland to Las Vegas, as an example, is $687. Cost for a shipment at 70 pounds averages $270. If you are using an adult-size shipping container to send an infant or youth, you are wasting your client family’s money. Use the proper sized shipping containers.

11. Leaving the cargo station without reporting damage to a shipping container.

If you notice anything at all wrong with the shipping container, do not sign the Air Waybill. Open the container and inspect the contents. If the contents are unaffected, then the shipping container did its job of protecting the contents. If there is damage to the casket or to the contents, take photos and report the damage to the cargo station agent. Insist they fill out a report and give a copy to you. If the flight was booked with EWA, contact us immediately – we can assist in filing a damage claim. If you sign the Air Waybill and leave, there may not be much recourse with the airline. By signing the Air Waybill, you are admitting to receiving the shipment in good condition.

Read the fine print.

Inman Shipping Worldwide assists the funeral professional in coordinating the return of a deceased loved one home.

“A funeral professional places one call to us and we go to work for them utilizing our network of Inman service providers to bring the deceased home. Another product we offer is the Travel Plan by Inman which is a travel protection product sold on a preneed basis that covers the cost of bringing a loved one home should they die 100 miles or more from their legal residence. The Travel Plan by Inman provides peace of mind for the participant and their family as well as an excellent source of additional revenue to preneed counselors since it is a commissionable product” begins Dave McComb, Owner of Inman Shipping Worldwide.

Inman Shipping Worldwide guarantees their at-need domestic shipping price. There are no surprises. Service is provided by Inman service providers who adhere to strict standards established by industry expert Vernice Fountain of the Fountain Academy and Scott Gilligan, NFDA legal counsel.

“We guarantee our domestic shipping price – $995,” he states.

Inman is known for their commitment to excellence and customer service. Inman was established in 1978 by funeral director and innovator Bob Inman and is now independently owned and operated by 4th generation funeral director, Dave McComb.

“We are the experts in the shipment of human remains and coming from a funeral industry background, we understand customer service and serving the funeral professional and the families they serve,” explains Dave.

“We also have created our own proprietary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software – Premier Dispatch. This software allows Inman to efficiently and effectively provide the information the funeral professional needs. The software automatically generates the packet of required documents needs for the shipments which expedites the entire process,” Dave continues.

Inman Shipping Worldwide vets each one of their service providers so funeral directors can be confident Inman will get the job done.

For nearly 40 years, National Mortuary Shipping has been known for offering removals, embalming, paperwork and shipping of remains for funeral homes. They also offer cremations, graveside services, translation services, international paperwork consultations, and flight booking.

“With advancements in communication technology, we are able to be staffed 24/7 with NMS shipping coordinators. We have also opened new lines of communication to give death calls, price quotes, and make pre-arrangements through the use of our website and mobile phone application. This allows a funeral director to start a call or gain information even when a phone call may not be ideal. This allows the funeral director to remain mobile and away from the office but still have a personal line of communication with our team members,” explains Angie Berwald, President of National Mortuary Shipping.

When it comes to the quality of NMS embalming and services, all representatives are hand selected and go through a vetting process.

“We often are asked about the accessibility of our team and if we use an answering service. This is something we have been adamant on since our beginning we have had live NMS shipping specialists in our building 24/7 to answer funeral directors’ questions. We know that funeral directors are always available for their families and we feel we should do the same for the directors,” states Angie.

There are not many places in the world NMS cannot help a funeral home. Their international shipping specialists have relationships with many international consulates and funeral homes and have been able to return loved ones home from around the globe.

“I would say the most important thing to know is that no matter what day, time, location of death or method of disposition we can help them. Our goal is to take care of all the details and logistics of a call, so a funeral director can focus on what’s truly important, the families. I also believe it is important to know that we are not just a shipping service. We have our own crematory and embalming facility here in Cleveland with licensed funeral directors, embalmers and crematory operators on staff. We also have a local pet crematory to help local funeral directors care for their pet families. There is nothing we ask of our representatives or do for our customers that we have not personally done here at our office. I believe this is an important component to our quality position,” she concludes.