Finding an eternal resting place at sea for his mother was what was weighing on Shannon Thomas as he traveled to Puerto Rico to spread her ashes. Until he arrived at his destination and opened his checked baggage.

In a federal civil complaint filed in Cleveland, Ohio on October 2, 2014, airline passenger Shannon Thomas alleges that he suffered emotional distress and damage to his personal property after TSA agents (named unknown defendants) opened and inspected his checked baggage, including “negligently, carelessly, and recklessly replaced the lid of the urn, placed a bag inspection notice in the Plaintiff’s suitcase, and sent the bag on its way.” Mr. Thomas found that the urn “had been opened and the remains of his mother spilled on his clothing and interior of his suitcase.”

cremated remains

Traveling with cremated remains is allowed, but plan ahead and know the rules.

The Complaint states, “No person speaking on behalf of the United States or TSA has ever issued an apology, explanation, or notification to Plaintiff aside from the bag search notice.”

Mr. Thomas made this trip on October 5, 2012 on United Airlines flight #4791 from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a layover at Dulles (IAD).

If the urn was opened for examination by TSA screeners, it would seem to be an action taken in contrary to the TSA’s policy:

If carrying on the crematory remains, they are subject to screening and must pass through the X-ray machine. If the X-ray Operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm. Under no circumstances will an officer open the container, even if the passenger requests this be done. If the officer cannot determine that the container does not contain a prohibited item, the remains will not be permitted.

The lawsuit seeks damages against the United States, TSA, and defendants involved for $750,000.

Read the TSA Blog on the topic: Traveling with Crematory Remains


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