HK Express Apologises For Making Passenger Take Pregnancy Test

Hong Kong-based low-cost airline Hong Kong Express has been forced to apologize after it was revealed it had forced a passenger to undertake a pregnancy test. The airline allegedly made Midori Nishida, 25, undertake a test before she was allowed to board a flight to Saipan. The airline says it was acting on concerns over birth tourism, but is now reviewing its practice.

HK Express pregnancy test
HK Express says sorry for making a passenger undergo a pregnancy test. Photo: Getty

What happened?

According to the BBC, passengers Midori Nishida, aged 25, was flying to the island of Saipan on board Hong Kong Express. However, despite completing a questionnaire prior to flying, Ms Nishida was ‘randomly’ selected to undergo a “fit to fly” medical check.

In fact, according to the passenger, a member of Hong Kong Express Airways staff escorted her to the toilet and made her take a pregnancy test. As you might expect, the test came back negative and the passenger was allowed to board.

Ms Nishida blogged about her experience in the Saipan Tribune, saying that,

“I am truly appalled by the entire situation: the questionable policy of screening passengers, the non-transparency of the airline staff, and the flagrant discrimination.”

HK Express pregnancy test
An airline employee escorted the passenger to the bathroom to take the test. Photo: HK Express

Why did they want her to take a pregnancy test?

The forced testing of Ms Nishida was not entirely to check she was ‘fit to fly’. Saipan, the largest of the North Mariana Islands, is a commonwealth of the United States. In recent years, it has become popular for women from other countries to give birth, as the baby is automatically granted US citizenship.

‘Birth tourism’, as it’s called, is so rife in Saipan, the number of babies born to tourists far outnumbers those born to permanent residents. The Telegraph estimates that, in 2018, 582 babies were born in Saipan to visiting mothers, while only 492 were born to women who live there full time.

Saipan is a US territory and a popular place to give birth. Photo: Pixabay

In an attempt to tackle this, airlines flying between Hong Kong and Saipan reserve the right to refuse boarding to any women who are over 20 weeks pregnant. This is said to be at the request of US immigration. It’s an unusual practice, and something which the US would no doubt deny any part of, but nevertheless, it happened to this passenger, and probably many more.

HK Express apologizes

The airline has issued a statement carried by the BBC, apologizing for its part in this situation and promising reform. The statement read:

“We would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been affected by this. We took actions on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure US immigration laws were not being undermined. We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it.”

The airline said it was acting on concerns raised by officials in the Northern Mariana Islands. It’s not known how many other female passengers have had to go through the same process in order to be allowed to board.