What Citizenship Does A Baby Have If It Is Born On A flight?

Over the years, there have been rare instances of mothers giving birth to their offsprings while in the air. When these occurrences happen, the citizenship of the baby comes into question.

British Airways 747
British Airways has seen its fair share of births on its aircraft over the years. Photo: Getty Images

Across the nations

There are several points to consider when considering the nationality of the child if they are born on a plane. The three key factors are the nationality of the child’s parents, where the plane is located at the time of birth, and where the aircraft was registered.

The parents’ citizenship can usually determine what a baby’s nationality should be, regardless of where the birth took place. However, some countries allow citizenship if there are births over their airspace. According to The Points Guy, the United States grants citizenship to births within 12 nmi of its borders. Even deliveries within the sky come under these laws.

Nonetheless, birth tourism – where mothers purposely go on vacation to have a child in that country so that they can claim citizenship has forced several governments to amend their laws. Subsequently, it is increasingly harder for parents to obtain citizenship documents from local authorities.

No European nation currently grants unconditional birthright citizenship. Other nations such as Qatar also don’t offer the same privilege. In these instances, the nationality of the child is then usually based on their parents’ documents.

Qatar Boring 777-300 Getty
Qatar Airways had a baby born on one of its Boeing 777s earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images

Aircraft registration

According to The Telegraph, if the flight the baby was born on is from a country signed to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness agreement, then the child will be a national of where the aircraft is registered. This factor could give way to a whole heap of confusion for parents as the plane could be registered to a country that they have no connection to whatsoever.

However, after looking further into the technicalities of this rule, The Points Guy highlights that this is most likely a backup plan if the other two routes fail.

Once in a blue moon

Nonetheless, this predicament is not something that is often a concern for parents. Measures are in place to prevent them from happening. Carriers usually do not allow heavily pregnant women to fly on their services for health and safety reasons.

The Telegraph reports that NHS guidance recommends the following:

“Most airlines will not allow you to travel after week 36 of pregnancy, or week 32 if you’re pregnant with twins or multiples.”

It is not common practice for babies to be delivered onboard. Photo: Getty Images

Regardless, these instances can happen. Famously, in 1991, Deborah Owen gave birth on a British Airways flight back to London Gatwick after working in Accra, Ghana. Her child, Shona Kirsty Yves (SKY) was born over the skies of France but was granted British citizenship.

Just last week, a baby was born on a repatriation flight to Lagos, Nigeria from Dubai, UAE. Altogether, much like how nationality is determined for births abroad, citizenship for deliveries in the air is subject to various local and personal factors.

What are your thoughts about the nationality of babies if they are born in the air? Do you know of any stories of someone giving birth on a plane? Let us know what you think in the comment section.