Between 350,000 and 400,000 new babies are born around the world every day. While the vast majority of these births occur either at hospital or at home, this isn’t the case for every last example. Indeed, every year, a select few babies are born onboard aircraft. But what exactly happens when this takes place, both medically and administratively?
A rare occurrence
The first thing that it is important to understand is the sheer rarity of such an event occurring. According to data shared by Condé Nast Traveller, this happens to just one in every 26 million air passengers. The magazine adds that there are just 50 ‘skyborns’ in the world, a figure that pales in comparison next to the aforementioned 350,000+ daily births.
When a baby is born onboard, it tends to be an unexpected delivery that takes place prematurely of the baby’s due date. According to The Points Guy, airlines try to minimize the risks of this with policies for pregnant women. For example, American requires a doctor’s note for expectant mothers traveling within 30 days of their due date.
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The course of action
Nonetheless, while a birth in the sky is a rare occurrence, that doesn’t mean it is completely unheard of. Over the last 18 months, Simple Flying has reported on several such stories. Three have taken place on Indian carriers, namely IndiGo (twice) and Air India. This is perhaps unsurprising given India’s status as the world’s second-most populous nation.
While cabin crew receive first aid and medical training, this doesn’t typically cover the eventuality of a pregnant mother entering labor. As such, should this happen, the crew may call upon any traveling medical professionals among the passengers to assist. While this is happening, airlines typically arrange for the flight in question to divert.
For example, in February 2020, a Bangkok-bound Qatar Airways flight diverted to Kolkata in the middle of the night when a baby was born onboard. This procedure allows the mother and baby to be seen to by medical professionals at the earliest convenience in the more usual setting of a hospital. This is important given that such births are typically premature.
Celebrations and citizenship
For many airlines, delivering a safe and healthy baby is a novel occurrence that they deem worthy of celebration. For example, in August 2020, MIAT Mongolian Airlines gave a pair of twins born onboard one of its services free flights for life with the airline. However, such events can also prompt confusion in terms of the citizenship of the new arrival.
The urgency of diversions might mean that the baby is born in the airspace of or on the ground in a country that its family has nothing to do with. Simple Flying explored this, and found that the child’s parents’ nationality and the plane’s location at the time of the birth are key factors. Failing this, the country where the plane is registered also comes into play.
Did you know what happens when a baby is born inflight? Have you ever been on a service that has had such an occurrence? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.