STS Quarterly Issue 13: March 2021

Rules Still Shifting for Air Transfers

More than a year in, the COVID pandemic is still making the logistics of transferring human remains slower and sometimes unpredictable.

Delays are frustrating, but broken promises can greatly upset the family. Be up front with survivors that the process has been shifting and evolving, and that you need to verify every detail before making any promises regarding timelines or final arrangements.

Here’s the latest on what you need to know from the team at Eagle’s Wings Air and Inman Shipping Worldwide:

Airlines have not been accepting “pending” death certificates for international transfers. Be sure the family understands that if an official death certificate has not yet been issued, international air transport cannot be booked.

Begin gathering all documentation as soon as possible. Mail has been slower and less dependable, and altered staffing schedules at consulates and other agencies mean you should expect delays. Give yourself as much lead time as possible and keep track of where you stand with all the elements of your transfer.

Some countries still will not accept COVID-positive human remains.

Many nations that were previously closed to COVID-positive remains have opened. The most sought-after destinations include Guadalajara, Mexico and Manila, Philippines. Expect delays transferring to those and other in-demand locations.

Regardless of the receiving nation or circumstance of death, it is always wise to talk with the receiving nation’s consulate to verify the latest facts and procedures, and ensure you have all necessary documentation.