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It is not very common for babies to be born while flying at 36,000 feet, but when it does happen it is generally a newsworthy event for a plane to land with one more passenger than it had when it took off. This week, a mom gave birth to a healthy baby on an Air France flight from Paris to New York before they could reach the ground at JFK. Luckily, there was a doctor on board to manage the situation until they could get the mama and baby some on-the-ground medical attention, and in this case, everything seems to have worked out just fine.
A common question that comes up when this happens (in addition to does the baby get free flights?) is what citizenship is a baby given when they are born on an airplane?
Citizenship status of a baby born on an airplane
The citizenship answer is actually a little complicated and depends on many factors. I’m far from a legal expert, but from what I found, usually, the baby will simply become a citizen of the same country as the mom (and/or dad) regardless of where they made their appearance. However, sometimes these airborne deliveries do have citizenship claims to the country whose airspace they were flying over when they were born, assuming that country grants citizenship based on being born within (or above) the borders.
There actually aren’t a ton of countries that operate in that manner, though notably, the United States is one of the countries that grants citizenship based on being born inside or within 12-nautical miles of the borders, including in the sky. This is also known as jus soli (right of the soil) citizenship and can come into play for babies who are born in the sky over select countries. You can check out some countries that grant citizenship based on where you are born here.
A baby born in the sky may alternatively end up being a citizen of the country where the aircraft is registered, though my layman’s reading points that being most likely to kick in as a fallback plan if the baby wouldn’t already have citizenship somewhere else based on the parents’ citizenship or the location of the plane when the baby made their arrival.
How late into pregnancy can women fly
Airlines obviously don’t want to be in the labor and delivery business, so there are limits on how late into a pregnancy a mother is supposed to fly set by each individual airline. US airlines typically do not require any documentation or have travel restrictions for pregnant women until the last month of pregnancy, whereas many international airlines do require medical clearance starting at 28 weeks. Interestingly enough, an exception to that general rule is actually Air France, the airline where this most recent mother gave birth. Air France does not require medical clearance for pregnant women and permits flight until the 37th week of pregnancy.
Are there free flights for babies born in the sky
In terms of whether giving birth on a plane will score the baby free flights, that does sometimes happen, but it is not guaranteed. Understandably, airlines certainly don’t want to encourage pregnant women on the verge of labor to board a plane, so adding incentives to do so probably isn’t in their best interest.
While the place of birth on the birth certificate for a baby born in-flight will be in the air (that’s pretty cool), the citizenship will depend on where the birth took place, the citizenship status of the parents, and potentially the country where the plane is registered.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.