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This article is written by Preeti Pallavi Jena, a pursuing bachelor of laws from the school of law, KIIT University, Odisha. This article talks about new born babies nationality and about pregnancy in a flight.


If there is a baby born in the plane then there are many questions from people like what will be his nationality, will he get free tickets for lifetime, which rule will be applied, either its Jus Soli or Jus Sanguinis, whether there is any more privilege and many more. For acquiring citizenship or nationality different countries have different rules and regulations. Here the legal status of the baby born will be seen.

Since the aircrafts are taken by the pilots, they need to have proper skills, qualifications for the safety of the people travelling. For the secure travelling these pilots need to have the license for knowing they are efficient enough. Huge amount of practice and training qualifications need to be given to the officers, the flight navigators, pilots, air traffic controllers for the emergency purposes. The health of these pilots, crew members need to be checked regularly. Nowadays air transport has become a common use by people and the more it is growing there is always more fear of the dangers regarding it. And there is the possibility of new born babies in flight. Because if the water breaks then everything depends on the airline members travelling to tackle the situation.

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Baby born in flight

There is a very less chance for a baby to be born in the flight but if such a thing happens. Then it becomes very difficult to determine the nationality of the baby. There are basically two ways from which we decide the birth of a child. Either by Jus Soli which means the right of soil, and the place of birth is decided as per the soil he was born or Jus Sanguinis which means right of blood, it means according to the parents it will be decided. Most countries follow the Jus Sanguinis rule, but countries like the US prefer the Right of soil and follow it and it provides automatic citizenship once a baby is born on their land. In India, the right of the soil rule was abolished totally in 1987.

As per the UN, the baby who is born in a plane, is considered to be a child of the land where the airline has been registered. These babies are called sky babies since they were born far above from the land. When a child is born in US airspace, the rule of Jus Soli is applied and the child as per the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, will be granted citizenship in the US. In India, as per the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 if a person is born in the flight which comes under any territory of India on 3rd December 2004 or after that will be considered as a citizen of India but atleast anyone parent of the child needs to be a citizen of India. Hence India follows the Jus Sanguinis. One benefit of giving birth to a child in planes is preferred that the airlines provide these babies free air travelling on their planes.

Citizenship of new born baby on flights

Generally women are advised not to travel in flight if they are pregnant. But even after the precaution certain unexpected circumstances also arise. This has been advised because it is really very tough for a woman to give birth in a plane and she might also be stressed, full of fear. And it’s also very difficult to deal with these kinds of situations inside a flight hence it is avoidable. There is no specific rule for the determination of the nationality of the newborn baby in flight. Before planes, there were ships and the same rules were also applied to them. But citizenship is very complicated.

Thailand sets rules for claiming jus soli which is, the parents need to live legally for minimum 5 years for getting jus soli to be applied to their child. In the UK, one parent needs to be settled legally in the UK only. This is mostly why jus sanguinis is more preferred.

A child can also be given dual citizenship under some circumstances like if the country from which the parents belong provides circumstances as per the blood. But it mostly depends according to the countries which are involved.

But this is not applicable to the rule of sanguinis countries. Hence, if a child is born in the plane at French and the mother is an American, then the child will not be a citizen of French even though the child was born in the French airspace. The baby will be given citizenship of America. Jus sanguinis is a general, relevant and common rule and most of the countries follow it. Hence, even though a baby is born in a flight in any international foreign airspace, still it will acquire the citizenship of its parents and not the place of the land he is born in.

Sometimes, if the mother has no official citizenship, then the child is termed to be born stateless. In this type of cases, the child is given citizenship according to the country the plane flying is registered. This is done for the reduction of stateless agreement made by the United Nations convention. 

This rarely happens that a baby is born 36,000 feet away from the land because many flights prohibit this and generally women don’t prefer to fly while they are pregnant. It’s also a proud and happy moment for a flight since for being able to make the birth of the child successful and generally when something like this happens, it spreads through newspapers, television all over. The plane lands with an extra passenger which came in the air. A baby was born in Jetblue flight and the flight marked it as an event by naming ‘born to be blue’.

Examples of a baby born in flight

In an instance in 1990, Debbie Owen, who was travelling from Ivory Coast to London on a seven-hour flight, gave birth to a baby mid-flight. She was seven months pregnant when she boarded the British Airways flight to London to celebrate Christmas with her 4-year old daughter, Claire. She underwent a medical checkup before boarding and she has a report from her doctor saying she was safe for travelling and the baby wasn’t due until Christmas. When she got on the plane, she was normal, but the twitches and pain started not long after. She resisted the contractions at first but later it was perfectly clear that her baby would have to be delivered mid-air. He was moved to a more spacious business class seat and when her baby was born, the pilot himself called her husband to deliver the good news. 

There is no hard and first rule, that the aircraft is considered the baby’s original country’s soil. This suggests that as the plane belongs to the nation to which it’s registered, so the baby born on the plane is a citizen of that very country. This is referred to as “jus soli” and when translated to English, it says Right to Soil. The United States and some other countries follow this principle while some countries have completely abolished this system of granting citizenship. The other concept is known as “jus sanguinis” translated as Right to Blood. This says that the child born in flight gets the nationality from one or either of his or her parents. In simpler words, a child becomes a citizen of the country where the parents belong to. This system of citizenship is applicable to most of the countries of the world including India. 

Another example is of Debbie Owen, she named her daughter Shona Kirsty Yves, or Sky. Shona was granted UK citizenship based on the citizenship of her parents. She has a UK passport and her place of birth has caused a lot of problems for her. Originally, it was listed as “Holder born on an aero plane 10 miles south of Mayfield, Sussex” but after the British passport changed its format, her place of birth had to be re-listed as “born at sea”. 

In another instance in 2015, Ada Guan and Wes Branch boarded a plane from Calgary to Tokyo. When they were flying over the Pacific Ocean, Ada gave birth to a baby. This was a huge surprise for both as the pregnancy test Ada took had shown to be negative. Several doctors were on board that lucky day and she received a lot of medical attention even before landing. 

In another similar instance, a lady was flying to Los Angeles when she went into labor and delivered a baby girl, six hours after boarding the flight. This gave her child the U.S. citizenship automatically on the grounds of ‘jus soli’. In the United States of America, ‘jus soli’ is followed which says that any child born on the U.S. soil including the country’s waters or air, is entitled to the United States Citizenship by birth.

How late into pregnancy a woman is allowed to fly

There are always certain limitations by the airlines since no one wants trouble. US airlines do not restrict women’s from travelling until its there last month of pregnancy and they don’t even need to provide documentations with regard to their pregnancy whereas many other countries restricts women travelling in the planes after 36 weeks of their pregnancy and also the women’s travelling must provide documents of there pregnancy and the approval of doctors, the medical reports(health condition reports). Before travelling proper guidelines and written acceptance of the doctor concerned must be provided. Separate airlines have different rules regarding prohibiting the women from travelling in their flights. If the doctors did not allow or give permission to a woman then she is not at all allowed to fly, since there can be emergency problems like sudden health issues and so they should avoid flying.

Free travelling in flight

It is always believed that whoever is born in flight gets free flight traveling in the same flight forever. But this is not true. Though sometimes they provide the two, three flights travelling free for the child, since born in the flight but its not for forever. People tend to think and believe that those children born in planes get the privilege for travelling forever in flights without money but that is no way true. It’s just that it has been assumed by people.


Though airborne is rare but that doesn’t mean it is not possible, the planes need to be always ready for such circumstances and also make some strict rules so that there will be no such situation arising. These strict restrictions should be made since it is really very difficult for the women herself and the air hostess and staff to tackle such a situation. It would be better for the child and also for the mother not to travel in a plane at the time of pregnancy. This will also reduce the complication in deciding the place of birth of the new born baby. The problem of the nationality of the child, not only in our country all over the world will be reduced and there will be no complexity in it anymore. Though some people found this to be very interesting for finding a child to be born in the flight, which is quite surprising to believe. But mostly no one wants to give birth to a child in the flight since it creates the nationality issue after that and also it’s totally not preferable without doctors that too in a plane.


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