So you’re settled in your plane seat, sipping coffee, and deep into a good book when all of a sudden you hear a cabin crew announcement come over the PA system asking in an urgent but calm tone, “Is there a doctor on board?” Your first thoughts could be that someone is perhaps choking on their airline meal. On this occasion, though, it turns out that there’s about to be another passenger on board as a mother on the flight is about to do the incredible and go into mile-high labor!
Plane babies are a pretty rare occurrence since most airlines forbid heavily pregnant women from flying in the first place. Since a lot of births out there don’t always go according to plan, however, some mothers can find themselves in the exciting yet terrifying position of bringing their child into the world at 35,000 ft, since not all flights can make an emergency landing in time. Some moms can plan their child’s birth with birthing pools and luxury private maternity wards, but if nature says you’re ready to pop, it’s happening and the flight attendant who served you pretzels earlier could soon become the makeshift midwife on your flight!
As well as making for an amazing story to tell the grandkids one day, giving birth on a plane also throws up the interesting dilemma of the newborn’s nationality. If a child is brought into the world thousands of feet above the Atlantic Ocean, for instance, is this reflected in the birth certificate? Does their future passport simply read “Born in the air?” Here are 20 insane and moving stories of babies born over land and sea.
20 The Mother Who Wasn’t Even Aware She Was Pregnant
There have been many bizarre cases of women giving birth without realizing they were pregnant and this scenario must be frightening enough, but to come to this same shocking realization when you’re 35,000 ft in the air? We can’t even imagine. One woman can though—Ada Guan, who was unknowingly 37 weeks pregnant on a flight to Tokyo.
On the long journey from Canada to Tokyo, Ada felt a growing feeling of discomfort which her boyfriend had dismissed as merely a pain. The sensation got worse, though, as Ada described feeling as if “something wanted to come out.” Several hours later, her baby daughter, Chloe, came into the world, thanks to the help of three doctors on board and one very flabbergasted boyfriend!
19 The Mom Who Named Her Child After The Airline
When you think through a lot of airline company names in your mind, none of them sound as if they’d make great names for your offspring—Frontier, Scoot, Aeroflot? These sound more like rejected names of Transformers characters. But perhaps one airline name you could perhaps get away with naming your child is the one this lady picked when she gave birth on a flight to Burma.
The mother named Saw Ler Htu was headed to Myanmar when her baby boy decided to show up. And in honor of the strange birthplace of her firstborn, she named her son ‘Jetstar’ after the airline company. As a kind gesture, the airline made Htu’s first day as a new mom even better by giving her family $1000 worth of baby supplies. Neat!
18 This Mom Aptly Named Her Child S.K.Y.
On a flight to Ghana in 1990, Mom Debbie Owens was traveling with her 4-year-old daughter, Claire, when her body was preparing to bring Claire’s little sister into the world. Luckily for Debbie, she had the best on-board assistance that any mom could hope for while 35,000 ft in the air, as the doctor at her side had previously delivered babies in the Ghana bush with no medical equipment whatsoever!
The doctor and cabin crew cleared a space in First Class to give Debbie as comfortable a birth as possible. And once the plane passed over Paris, her baby girl was delivered quickly and safely on board. Owens knew she had to commemorate her second girl’s odd birthplace in some way, so she named her Shona Kirsty Yves to spell out S.K.Y in her initials. Cute!
17 Twins Born Both In Mid-air And On Land
Twins share pretty much everything as they grow up together, so it’s nice when a twin sibling can claim to have something that’s uniquely theirs. Thanks to the odd timing and circumstance of their birth, these particular twin babies both have a different experience of the moment they came into the world.
On an internal Russian flight from Zyryanka to Yakutsk, 25-year-old Irina Vasylkova was barely settled in her seat when she began having contractions, as twins were on the way. Because things happened so quick, one baby was born in the air and the second was born once the plane was on land again. A sweet birth story Irina’s twin girls will either cherish (or fight over) for years to come!
16 That’s One Way To Score Some Flyer Miles!
On a flight from Dubai to the Philippines in 2016, one mom went into labor two months before her due date, and the airline awarded her newborn one million air mile points. (That’s one heck of a push present!)
The long haul Cebu Pacific flight was around 5 hours into its 9-hour journey when the soon-to-be mother went into labor and a nearby passenger documented the magic moment the mom held her baby girl, Haven, in her arms for the first time. Astonishingly, this was the mother’s first ever child, so something tells us her subsequent hospital births (if any) will be quite the anti-climax!
15 The Student Doctor Hoping To Relax In ‘Off-Duty’ Mode
There are no two ways about it. Doctors work their fingers to the bone, so it’s understandable that one might hope and pray for a peaceful flight without hearing the announcement “Is there a doctor on board?” When second-year medical student Dr. Sij Hemal heard this after a long day of flying, he, of course, stepped up to the plate and considering his sleep deprivation, he did an amazing job.
Dr. Hemal had previously flown from New Delhi through to France and was heading on to JFK airport to catch his flight home to Cleveland. “I was hoping to have a drink and fall asleep. I’m so glad I didn’t drink anything.” Hemal helped deliver mom Toyin’s baby boy Jake and the mom praised Dr. Hemal and staff for acting “even better than hospital staff.”
14 Captain Choked Up By The New Arrival On Board
Being in the presence of new life can be a humbling thing for anyone. And since it rarely happens on board an aircraft, it’s all the more special to share in someone’s first moments as a mom. It can be such a life-affirming moment sometimes that even the captain of this flight couldn’t hold back the happy tears on an Airline Lufthansa flight where mom Desislava gave birth to baby boy Nikolai.
Despite having a record of 11 babies born on their airlines since 1965, Captain Kurt Mayer was particularly blown away on this occasion, admitting, “Aside from the birth of my own son, this was the most moving moment of my life.” We’re tearing up!
13 Pre-term Baby Born On Flight To Pakistan
Believe it or not, pregnancy can look different on every woman. Some are still rocking a modest bump towards the end of their term and others look to be smuggling a beach ball under their dress! For one pregnant lady on a Pakistan flight, her bump was definitely the former, despite being around 32 weeks pregnant.
Despite being a fairly premature baby, the crew on Pakistan International Airlines helped deliver a beautiful and healthy baby girl. There were happy vibes all around on the plane since the crew handed out sweets to all passengers and a bouquet and candy to the new mom. Cute!
12 Baby Boy Named ‘Jet’ On Flight To Orlando
Some women have their perfect baby name picked out even before falling pregnant, but other moms prefer to take inspiration from a spur-of-the-moment situation—like going into early labor on board a plane. When Mrs. Walton and her hubby were returning home from a wedding in Pennsylvania, they got a parting gift neither of them could have expected!
When Watson began having contractions, qualified nurse Loretta Blesdoe was thankfully on board the same flight and rushed to help deliver the premature bundle of joy. When their newborn son arrived, he was a teensy two pounds and four ounces, and without a name for him, the couple sweetly christened him ‘Jet’ (much cuter than Boeing, if you ask us).
11 A Quick, Super Smooth Birth On Route To Dallas
A regular run-of-the-mill birth may not sound like much to write home about, but an easy and super smooth delivery of an infant up 35,000 ft is quite an achievement in itself, particularly as you have to make do with the limited equipment (and the medical expertise) on board.
Not only did mom-to-be Christina Penton enjoy an uncomplicated pregnancy, but her son’s birth was a welcome walk in the park (or, in this case, like walking on air). Christina felt her first contraction as the plane left Florida and was holding her healthy baby Christopher in her arms less than an hour later...to loud cheers and applause from everyone on board!
10 All 191 Passengers Of International Flight Grounded Due To Surprise Birth
Planes get delayed and grounded all the time. And whenever passengers hear the latter, it can be both an annoyance and a concern. It’s very rare that a plane grounds for a positive reason, but in this case, the welfare of a mom and her newborn baby were at stake and we’re sure all 191 passengers were happy to be diverted (at least, we’d like to assume they were!).
On an international flight from Bogota to Frankfurt, a mid-air birth meant that the plane needed to make an emergency landing in Manchester airport, where the plane remained on the runway for several hours while to be refueled. As delay reasons go, this was at least a pretty positive one, if only every frustrating transport delay was due to new life entering the world.
9 A Race Against Time (And Nature)
It’s understandable to wish to have your whole family around you when you’re about to introduce a new member into it. Having your baby’s grandparents around at the birth can make the whole day extra special for your partner and your bundle of joy. Unfortunately, this can’t always be a realistic birth picture for most people, especially if your relatives live a ferry ride away.
This didn’t deter one British mother, however, who was determined to be with family living on the Isle of Urnst in Scotland. 5 minutes into her 20-minute helicopter ride to the Isle, nature made sure that her bundle of joy was born in the air instead. Her family may not have been around, but it certainly makes for a cooler story this way!
8 The Birth Carried Out On An Aircraft Carrier
Most of the moms on this list arguably gave birth in pretty scary and unsettling surroundings, but we’re confident that this mother has them all beaten. Having told no one about her pregnancy, an unnamed mother in the US Navy surprised herself and her fellow sailors when her complaints of abdominal cramps turned into full-blown labor on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf of all places.
Astonishingly, this same aircraft carrier was about to unleash an attack when the crew turned their priorities towards getting mother and baby to a safe spot. They were soon both taken to an offshore hospital. Amazing!
7 San Francisco - Bound Mother Named Baby ‘Francis’
Celeb baby names have made it a little tacky to name your kid after a place or a geographical direction (we’re looking at you, Kimye), but in this case, we can let the parents off since it’s touching and subtle...and more than a little adorable.
When Aida Alamillo flew from the Philippines to visit her ill father in the U.S., her baby son arrived just in time to give an unsuspecting grand pappy the greatest gift of all. Bewildered but overjoyed, Aida was inspired to name the child ‘Francis’ since her plane was headed for San Francisco, where she’d soon be introducing him to her ailing dad. (Who cut onions around here?)
6 Baby Girl Born In A Rescue Helicopter During A Flood
You may have come across this crazy birth story before since it’s eventful, to say the least! In 2017, 20-year-old Maria Sanchez discovered that her Peruvian village was becoming flooded at a fast rate. On top of this, another form of water breaking was set to make the whole ordeal even more stressful for her—she was also going into labor.
Thankfully, Maria’s prayers were answered when a Peruvian air force helicopter rescued her from the scene (although her ordeal wasn’t quite over yet). Despite hopes of a hospital birth, Maria’s baby girl arrived 15 minutes before they could even land. A nightmarish day ended quite beautifully, though, as Maria named the unit commander as godfather and christened her daughter ‘Cielo’ (meaning ‘sky’ in Spanish).
5 Delivered On Turkish Airlines At Just 28 Weeks Old
For the health and safety of the baby and mom-to-be, women normally need to provide the airline with a certificate or medical note once they’re planning on flying after 28 weeks. But little did this mother know, this would be pretty much invalid once she left the plane!
A woman named Nafi Diaby wasn’t on her Turkish airline’s flight long before she began having contractions. And despite having just begun her third trimester, her baby was definitely on its way. Flight crew and nearby passengers rushed to Nafi’s aide in delivering her premature bundle, baby girl Kadiju, into the world.
4 Mother Who Gave Birth A Day After Her Wedding
One newly-wedded wife got her “something new” a day later than planned when she gave birth in a helicopter intended to take her and her new hubby on the way to their honeymoon! When the groom and his pregnant bride from Wollongong exchanged vows in their Queensland ceremony, they can’t have expected that they would both become proud parents the following afternoon!
The perspective was a whole 14 weeks off her due date, so it looked as if the coast was clear in celebrating a honeymoon. Not so much. Though the couple wished to remain anonymous, it was reported later on that despite being very premature, their surprise arrival was doing great.
3 The Mom’s Shoestrings Were Used To Tie The Umbilical Cord
Often, in times of panic, it’s the simplest things that help you out in your hour of need, and for one new mom, it was the laces in her shoe and a pair of blunt kid-friendly scissors that helped out with the umbilical cord.
On a Southwest Airlines flight bound for Chicago, one mom brought the passenger count up by one when her baby boy arrived on board in what medical crew described as a “normal delivery” (if you can call a birth at 33,000 ft normal). Add in the fact that a pair of child’s play scissors were used to cut the baby’s umbilical cord (and the mom’s shoelaces were used to tie around the ends) and you have one heck of a story.
2 Baby Girl Courtney Mistaken For Kidney Stones
This birth technically occurred inside a helicopter instead of a plane, but this arguably made things 10 times more frightening for the mother—particularly since she first presumed her contractions to be a case of kidney stones instead! When Lisa Clinard was being airlifted to the hospital with suspected kidney stone pains, her water broke unexpectedly, and she would be bringing her daughter into the nosiest mobile maternity ward ever.
Fortunately, a nurse was on board Lisa’s flight that day, and while Lisa hoped to reach the hospital in time, baby girl had other ideas. Baby Courtney arrived safe and sound in the helicopter ride, and later, Lisa and her partner had to obtain the helicopter flight records to officially register little Courtney’s birth!
1 The Taiwanese Mother Who Was Separated From Her Newborn
Any child born in American waters or airspace is automatically recognized as a U.S. citizen by birth. With this law in mind, many women seeking citizenship try to ensure they will deliver babies overseas to qualify. Unfortunately, this is the method that Taiwanese woman Jian attempted while on a flight from China to Los Angeles and it sadly didn’t end well for the mother and the baby.
Before boarding her China airlines flight to LA, Jian deliberately didn’t inform anyone that she was 36 weeks pregnant. And after promptly going into labor, the plane made an emergency landing in Alaska to get them both to a hospital. Jian’s baby girl was awarded U.S. citizenship, but her mother was sadly deported back to Taiwan and incurred the $27,000 costs to divert the plane.