By: David McComb
Tuesday, June 4, 2024

     The multi-faceted responsibilities of the Funeral Director encapsulate the legal and logistical realms, as well as the delicate task of guiding grief-stricken families through this challenging process. This underlines the Funeral Director’s indispensable role as the beacon of support and guidance for the family, emphasizing the attention to detail essential in managing each step of the process. The meticulousness is particularly pronounced when it comes to transfers, where details and coordination are crucial. From delayed flights to misplaced bodies and unsigned death certificates, Funeral Directors and experienced shipping entities navigate these challenges with unwavering dedication.

     The responsibilities further extend to ensuring compliance with the legal and regulatory obligations at the place of death, which includes detailed discussions and adherence to an array of regulations and documentation requirements. Underscoring the Director’s role in safeguarding the integrity of the process and fulfilling the wishes of the family, every detail is meticulously managed to prevent any mistakes, recognizing the impact of even the smallest oversights.

     In recent years, the satisfaction of shipping loved ones home for ceremonies has experienced a notable decline, with various contributing factors. (See graph at right courtesy of Johnson Consulting Group.) The drastic reduction and alteration of routes by the airline industry, increased government red tape related to death certificates, and challenges in acquiring doctor’s signatures have compounded the difficulties. Lack of staffing at the Boards of Health has also contributed to delays and frustrations, underscoring the complexity and challenges in the process.






















     Amid these challenges, potential solutions have emerged, ranging from the implementation of dedicated personnel systems for shipping loved ones, albeit at a potentially significant cost, to engaging experienced third-party entities specializing in the shipment of loved ones home for ceremonial purposes. This approach leverages the expertise of companies well-versed in the intricacies of shipping within every state of the country, as well as consulates and embassies in other countries, focusing on the alignment of quality and price for a seamless experience. The question must be why should a funeral Director spend hours on the phone talking to various entities including Airlines when the service can be done by an experienced third-party shipping entity. The funeral director is more valuable than doing administrative work.

     For shipping entities like Inman Shipping Worldwide, selecting the right representatives or service providers for the sensitive task of receiving and caring for the loved ones involves experience and repetition. Experience has proven that choosing the least expensive entity for the pickup, transport, and embalming of the body often comes at a significant cost. It is essential to recognize the presence of entities outside of the profession, such as travel plan/out of area sales companies, and the importance of quality over cost in such cases. Experienced shipping companies maintain records of trusted representatives/service providers, emphasizing the importance of choosing experienced professionals over cheaper alternatives.

     The details of international shipping are vast and multifaceted, requiring careful consideration and expertise. It is essential to work with companies with extensive experience in international shipping, due to the various challenges and pitfalls involved, especially in rerouting, documentation requirements, and communication across time zones. Selecting companies specializing in air transportation, such as Eagles Wings Air, brings an added layer of experience and industry-specific knowledge, particularly in coordinating logistics for international shipments. The fact that five minutes spent on the phone with EWA can relieve one of your licensed staff from spending the afternoon on the telephone instead of serving families. Given the context of international transportation and the intricate process, experience plays a crucial role in ensuring seamless, efficient, and accurate execution. Reiterating the importance of quality over cost, choosing the right specialists is key in navigating the complexities of international transportation.

     In funeral service today, rising costs, the shift towards cremation, and challenges in finding skilled funeral directors have given the rise in travel plans or out-of-area protection. Travel protection plans, which involve the agreement to transfer a deceased back home if they die more than 75 miles away from their legal address, present an opportunity for funeral professionals. These plans, typically sold in conjunction with funeral arrangements before death, are relatively simple yet present a significant opportunity for funeral homes in the current landscape. As funeral professionals adapt to the changing landscape, the consideration of selling travel plans becomes a strategic move in aligning with the evolving client expectations and industry trends as well as a significant opportunity to improve the bottom line. Not all travel plans are created equal. There are some entities selling travel plans that have really no connection to funeral service. It may be wise to see who the owner is and if they have any experience in funeral service. Consideration also needs to be given if the plans being sold are properly protected with insurance rather than a slush fund. If you are being represented by a third-party pre-need sales entity, you still have the right to choose who your travel plan company is if you don’t feel like you are being properly protected for the future fulfillment of the travel plan. The sales of a travel plan is a long-term commitment. Make sure you’re protected.

     In summary, the transportation of human remains presents a realm of challenges, complexities, and opportunities for funeral professionals. The evolving landscape and the nuanced intricacies involved demand a steadfast commitment to quality, detail, and expertise. A renewed focus on the fundamentals of the transportation process holds the potential for significant opportunities and strategic alignment with the changing industry dynamics and client expectations.

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