In 1990, a heavily pregnant Debbie Owen, accompanied by four-year-old daughter Claire, was flying from Ghana where she worked to London on a British Airways flight. Unexpectedly, she went into labour and was quickly moved into first class which was cleared of passengers. It was her good fortune that Dutch doctor, Wym Bakker, was also on board.
On approach to London’s Gatwick airport; with the blinds drawn, soft music playing, her very own doctor and cabin crew on standby, Shona Kirsty Yves — spelling out the initials SKY — was born, increasing the passenger list by one. Hear her:
I have always been told I was born to travel and I am working in the travel industry at the moment. It’s quite a good story and a good ice breaker(for starting conversations).
How Many Babies Are Born On Planes?
There really are no specific figures, because most airlines do not keep records of births, so statistics are hard to come by. But Shona’s story is rare because airlines have rules safeguarding women and their babies.
Though it varies, most airlines allow expectant mothers to travel until they are 36 weeks pregnant, but from 28 weeks onward, a signed letter from a doctor or midwife confirming the due date is required. But regardless of this, it still happens as the following example proves.
In May 2015, Ada Guan and Wes Branch were flying from Calgary in Canada to Tokyo in Japan when Ada gave birth over the Pacific Ocean. This was a big surprise for the couple who had no idea she was pregnant. There were several doctors on board who offered help and the newborn, named Chloe, was born before the plane landed.
They Become Citizens Of Which Country?
In October 2015, a mother flying from Taipei in Taiwan to Los Angeles, United States went into labour six hours into the flight, eventually delivering a healthy baby girl with the help of a doctor who was also travelling. Later, she was criticised as speculation rose that she had planned it so she could give birth in the U.S. and her baby given citizenship.
In the UK for example, citizenship is not automatically conferred to those born in Britain. Unlike in the United States, where a child born in the country’s waters or airspace is a U.S. citizen by birth in accordance with the principle of jus soli (right of the soil) — that’s the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship.
But is the rumour true that people born on airplanes get free flights for life?
True or False?
Sadly, it seems to be something of a myth. Very few airlines are known to have granted a newborn free flights for life. The only carriers to have done so are Thai Airways, Asia Pacific Airlines, AirAsia and Polar Airlines. Virgin Atlantic granted one baby free flights until the age of 21.
Shona, the airplane baby mentioned at the outset, received two free first-class flights to Australia on her 18th birthday, enabling her to visit her grandmother, and was later used in an advertising campaign for the airline.
If it ever happens that airlines start to feel generous, she firmly believes that it’s the mothers who should benefit, not the babies. Since they are the ones who went through the whole process, that makes them more deserving of free flights than the babies, she concluded.
What do you think?