MOD have been sending bodies as freight for years, when servicemen die overseas, other than on ops when the process is handled by mil pers throughout. Once the paperwork is completed the whole thing is handed over to a contracted freight agent and the coffin, wrapped in hessian, is returned as freight. On arrival at the UK airport the coffin has to be cleared by customs, and is often taken in an undertaker's van rather than a hearse.
I really don't have a problem with this. My father died abroad some years ago with his family around him. His body came back to the UK on a passenger flight as cargo and was taken to the funeral home. His body was treated with respect from the moment he died to his cremation. Travelling is not the problem here; it is how the bodies of the soldiers coming home are met and dealt with. An 'honor guard' is great but at the least it should be a pukka funeral company with a proper hearse. The funeral is a personal thing and can be the full military works or just a family occasion. We're looking for dignity here.
p.s How do you think those soldiers you knew who died on Ops or in accidents got back to the UK from Ulster, BAOR and places east?
The story is crap. The remains fly in from the sand box on a C-17 to Dover AFB. The remains are offloaded and transferred to the mortuary unit where the bodies are prepared. When the remains are ready a Casualty Assistance Officer escorts the remains on a civilian flight to the location where the remains are to be buried. He supervises the loading of the aircraft then goes to his seat. The funeral parlor picks up the body and again the officer supervises the transfer. This officer meets the family and coordinates the burial arrangements. After the funeral the officer returns to his home.
The article is a complete and utter non-issue. The story was picked up by Boxer, who is about as anti-Bush a politician as exists in the US, and completely blown out of all sense of reality, and is being rather poorly received by US servicemen. (The article, not the topic)
After all, how else is a body going to get from A to B? Are they going to prop it up in a first class seat next to the escort? "Sorry sir, please don't mind the body bag across the aisle. Would you care for some peanuts?"
When it gets to the other end, there's almost always a local military honour guard to pick it up. The escort gets off the aircraft first, the pall bearers take the casket to the hearse, and they go off to the funeral home. I've done a number of these.
I'm not so sure about the bodies going via 747 in Glasgow though. They almost invariably fly C-17 or C-5 to Dover.