Background on the "known shipper" policy
The TSA's "known shipper" policy is not new; Congress just recently mandated TSA and the airlines to strictly enforce it.
TSA originally developed the "known shipper" policy in 2004 as a way to "impose significant barriers to terrorists seeking to use the air cargo transportation system for malicious purposes." As this policy was being developed five years ago, NFDA Advocacy Division staff met with TSA representatives to discuss the potential security threat presented by the shipment of human remains by air. NFDA staff outlined the typical procedures and chain of custody involved in preparing human remains for air shipment. At that time, TSA agreed that the "known" status of the funeral homes that ship by air, the limited access to the preparation room and the transportation procedures used created a minimal security risk.
Congress and TSA have revised their assessment, however, and have identified the shipment of human remains as a potentially serious security risk requiring stricter security measures.
Compliance with the "known shipper" policy
Funeral homes will be required to register as a "known shipper" with each airline they use to ship bodies; the application process might include an inspection and payment of an inspection fee. While registering with multiple airlines can create an administrative burden on funeral homes, TSA and the airlines have told NFDA that it must be done.
Each airline has their own procedures for both the application and inspection process and may charge a nominal fee to cover their costs.
According to TSA and the airlines, no inspection will be necessary if the applicant is already in the TSA "known shipper" database; however, even if a funeral home is a "known shipper," owners might still be required to submit an application with each airline the firm uses. Most C corporations are in the TSA database, making the application process relatively simple; other funeral homes that are not C corporations may also be in the TSA database.
If a funeral home is not in the TSA database, the airline might be required to conduct an inspection to ensure the legitimacy of the business.
NFDA will continue to work with TSA and the airlines to refine the process to reduce the potential compliance costs and administration burdens for its members.
TSA Known Shipper Regs: Compliance Services
Recently, several NFDA members have reported receiving calls from companies offering a "one-stop known shipper compliance service." This service is provided at a cost to the funeral home and includes sending an inspector out to complete a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) site inspection, and filing all the necessary paperwork with all airlines. While this is an option for funeral homes that wish to use it, please note that you might be charged airline inspection fees in addition to the fee charged by the compliance service; also, these service providers do not guarantee quicker service.
Please be aware that if you already have a known shipper number with a particular airline, you do not need to have a site visit from that same airline. The decision to require a site visit is made by the individual airlines. Not all airlines require a site visit; each airline has its own procedures for both the application and inspection process and might charge a nominal fee to cover their costs. For example, American Airlines first checks the TSA database to see if a funeral home is listed. If the funeral home is in the TSA database, American Airlines does not require a site visit. However, other airlines, such as United Airlines, require a site visit prior to checking the TSA database.
It should be noted that per TSA requirements, having a known shipper number with one airline does not transfer to any other airline. Therefore, NFDA members are encouraged to apply for a known shipper number with ALL airline carriers they use prior to the TSA known shipper compliance deadline of August 1. For information about the known shipper regulations, call your personal NFDA member services representative at
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