On Monday, a woman flying from Greece to Armenia via Germany and Ukraine was stopped at Munich Airport. Airport officials had discovered a wooden box in her luggage, that turned out to contain the skeleton of her dead husband.
Scanning airport luggage would seem to the outside world to be somewhat of a monotonous, albeit critical, occupation. However, every now and then, something unusual is bound to pop up on the monitors. Such as the shape of a phalange, a femur, or perhaps even a human skull.
From Athens to Yerevan
The 74-year old Armenian woman was traveling with her 52-year old daughter. Their itinerary took them from Athens to Munich, from where they were to continue to Kiyv and then to Yerevan. Airport officials at Munich Airport discovered the human remains and alerted customs. They also brought in a doctor and public prosecutor to assist in the investigation.
In interrogations with the police, assisted by an officer with Greek roots, it became evident that the woman wanted to repatriate the bones of her deceased husband to his native Armenia. The man passed away in 2008 and was buried close to the couple’s home in Thessaloniki in Northern Greece – up until now, that is.
The woman produced documents supporting her claims, and the transfer turned out to be lawful. As such, she and her daughter, along with the bones of her husband in their box, were allowed to continue on their journey.
While the German border police do not know which carrier the ladies were traveling with, they did confirm to Simple Flying that they missed their initial connection as a result of the investigation.
Not the first skeleton passing through Munich
This was not the first time a traveler was halted in the German city with a skeleton in their luggage. Back in March 2008, a woman and her friend were stopped by airport authorities while on their way to Italy from Brazil. A scan revealed a plastic bag with a human skull and bones in the woman’s luggage.
That time, the bones belonged to the woman’s brother. In transporting them to Italy, she was attempting to fulfill her brother’s dying wish to be buried there, after passing away eleven years earlier in São Paulo.
At that time, the women could also produce the necessary papers, the transfer was deemed to be lawful, and they were allowed to continue on their way, along with the bag of bones.
Remains and ashes regulations
The regulations for countries vary slightly as the transport of human remains is concerned. However, to transport remains across borders that have signed the Strasbourg convention, one needs to produce a laissez-passer – body passport.
When it comes to the ashes of people who have been cremated, the rules also differ slightly from airline to airline. Most carriers will allow you to take the ashes of your loved one or pet with you on board in your hand luggage. However, you do need to be able to produce both a death certificate and a certificate of cremation.
In some instances, airlines will require you to be able to prove your relationship to the deceased. It is also good to remember that they will be x-rayed, and need to be transported in a non-metal container.
What is the strangest thing you have heard of found in luggage? Let us know in the comments.