Baby on board! What nationality does a kid born on a plane get?

We all secretly hope for those film-y moments. 

You’re sitting on the plane, minding your own business, when you hear the captain announce ‘Is there a doctor on board?!’. Sometimes, there’s a single medical student. Maybe a nurse. On another lucky day, you could find a whole team of professionals going to a conference. What follows soon is the exciting stuff—the cries of a newborn on board!

Baby born on a Turkish Airlines flight

Photo by @TurkishAirlines on Twitter

If this is a domestic flight, there isn’t much to ask. But when flying over international borders or the ocean, many do wonder—what nationality will the baby be? You started from one country, the infant was born mid-air, and it touched ground in a different nation. Seems like a legal puzzle?

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There’s actually a few different ways things could go

If the airline is registered in a country that has signed the UN’s Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961), the baby will be granted citizenship of that country. India has not signed this convention, meaning that a baby delivered on our domestic carriers can be subject to different rules.

Many countries also choose to award citizenship based on the country whose airspace the baby was born in. 

And the third option? The kid takes the nationality of one of its parents.

Birth tourism is a real thing!

Some countries, like the United States and Canada, grant automatic citizenship to anyone born in their territories, which includes airspace and waters. This is due to the right of soil, or ‘jus soli’. 

Unsurprisingly, some parents choose to exploit this by intentionally taking flights to countries upholding this law. This ‘birth tourism’ is used to give better opportunities to the ‘sky baby’—and to even help the parents achieve sponsorship or permanent residency in that country. 

Indian parents can’t exactly secure this kind of citizenship for their children. Our Constitution doesn’t allow dual citizenship. 

Don’t fly if you’re heavily pregnant

Healthcare providers generally advise pregnant women in their last trimester to avoid long-haul flights, because this type of emergency isn’t as rare as you think. Indigo and Etihad don’t let women fly at 36 weeks, while Jet Airways has capped it at 38 weeks.

SpiceJet allows expecting mothers to travel up to and including 36 weeks, but asks for a doctor’s certificate. Air India states that if a pregnancy has crossed 32 weeks and expects a normal delivery, then a mother can travel up to 35 weeks on their flight. 

Just last month, a baby boy was born prematurely on Indigo flight 6E-122 from Delhi to Bengaluru. The child will reportedly get a lifetime of free travel with the airline. Another baby, born in 2017 on a Jet Airways flight from Saudi Arabia to Kochi, was gifted a free lifetime pass. 

Our question: can it be in first class? 😉 

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