Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Yesterday, a friend of mine who works as a purser (chief flight attendant) helped a lady with delivering her baby during a flight to Manila, Philippines while over the ocean :)

I know that pregnant ladies after their 7th month (in this particular airlines) are not allowed to travel by air but she somehow managed to be on-board (it is her responsibility to declare that). Anyway the baby was delivered in a professional way as if he was delivered in a hospital and he is fine and healthy :)

My question: What will be the place of birth for the baby? The origin country or destination country of the flight? Or somewhere else? Are there any related rules regarding this delivery?

This is a real photo of my friend and the baby he helped deliver delivery on-board an airplane

By the way, I have permission from the photograph owner to show it here.


I can't believe it, my friend helped in delivering another baby in another flight :) Again the baby and the mom are healthy and happy :) Respects to my expert friend.

Another baby!

Again, I have a permission to show the photo here.

share|improve this question
It's not true that "pregnant ladies on 7th month are not allowed to air travel". This is up to each airline... there are no laws covering this as far as I know. And in practice there are some airlines that have no limit on this and you can travel in the 9th month if you want. – JoelFan Sep 13 '12 at 21:18
It seems unlikely that an airline could refuse to let a pregnant woman travel. In the U.S., at least, it could be considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I would think that at most they could politely advise against it. – Kyralessa Sep 14 '12 at 2:46
This is such a good question that I could not resist taking part. As a place of birth, I'd suggest to be "Pacific Ocean". It would be weird to put gps coordinates :) Congrats on a flying baby!!! I think as regards to nationality of the child, it is very dependent of circumstances of applicable laws, sometimes more than one law will apply sometimes applies none. But the question was: What would be the place? – ljgww Sep 14 '12 at 4:53
@Kyralessa, I disagree. For reasons of passenger safety they can do just about anything. I'm almost certain that airline safety regulations trump the ADA big time. – JoelFan Sep 14 '12 at 11:51
Apparently such a birth happened in 2008. The baby's forms listed Canada for citizenship because the baby was born over Canada. I don't think, however, that actual citizenship was ever granted. – Kate Gregory May 21 '14 at 21:30
up vote 47 down vote accepted

According to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Article 3:

For the purpose of assigning nationality, birth on a ship or aircraft shall amount to birth in the territory of the State that gives its flag to that ship or aircraft.

However, only about 40 nations (not including the USA) have ratified this convention - and what territory a birth has occurred on is not necessarily what determines citizenship.

So in reality, it's a huge mess between:

  • what country the plane is registered in
  • what country's territory the plane was flying over at the moment of birth
  • the nationality of the mother and father
  • whether these countries' laws claim jurisdiction over in-air births
  • whether these countries' laws are based on the jus soli or the jus sanguinis principle
  • whether these countries' laws allow dual nationalities

In theory, you may have cases where none of the countries involved would grant the baby citizenship, or where two (or even three) would grant it automatic and exclusive citizenship.

In practice, I suspect that in almost all cases at least one of them would grant citizenship, and it's up to the mother which one she applies for - and up to the bureaucrats how difficult that is.

A separate question is what the "place of birth" on the birth certificate will say - I suspect that's up to the discretion of said bureaucrats, since it will have little importance in most cases.

share|improve this answer
I guess that is also part of the reasons why airlines are so strict in not allowing pregnant passengers after a certain time – user141 Sep 13 '12 at 17:00
Their strictness is to attempt to reduce the number of "medical diversions" where a plane has to land early to take someone off for medical attention. Since most labours last much longer than most flights, in-air delivery must be extraordinarily rare – Kate Gregory Sep 13 '12 at 17:13
And if the plane as well as the baby were just about to cross the border and each had parts of their body on both sides of two countries at the moment of birth, that would add another complexity. Still worse, if a similar thing happened at a point where three or more countires meet, that will be even more complicated. – sawa Sep 14 '12 at 6:33
@Andra, I bet that citizenship issues play no role in the airlines refusing pregnant passengers... that does not affect the airline at all... the diversion and liability issues are all they care about – JoelFan Sep 14 '12 at 11:54
@sawa, there is no way that would come into play in an airline issue, unless the flight was purposefully flying directly along a border for a significant period of time – JoelFan Sep 14 '12 at 11:56

Conveniently as ever, Wikipedia has a page on Birth aboard aircraft and ships.

The law on the subject, despite the provisions of Article 3 the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, is complex, because various states apply differing principles of nationality, namely jus soli and jus sanguinis, to varying degrees and with varying qualifications.

In general:

Under the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, articles 17–21, all aircraft have the nationality of the state in which they are registered, and may not have multiple nationalities. For births, the law of the aircraft's nationality is applicable, and for births that occur in flight while the aircraft is not within the territory of any state, it is the only applicable law. However, if the aircraft is in or flying over the territory of another state, that state may also have concurrent jurisdiction, and the locus in quo principle may apply to the exact position of the aircraft when the birth occurred.

There are still very few Member States that are party to the 1961 Convention. Furthermore, conflicts of laws still exist, in particular between the laws of North and South American states, which typically adhere to the jus soli principle, and the laws of European states, which usually adhere to the jus sanguinis principle.

The U.S. exception:

U.S. law holds that natural persons born on foreign ships docked at U.S. ports or born within the limit of U.S. territorial waters are U.S. citizens. An important exception to this rule is that children born to people who (in line with the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution) are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States (e.g. diplomats accredited with the United States Department of State) are not automatically U.S. citizens. Despite a common misconception to the contrary, birth on board a U.S.-flagged ship, airliner, or military vessel outside of the 12-nautical mile (22.2 km/ 13-13/16 st. mi.) limit is not considered to be a birth on U.S. territory, and the principle of jus soli thus does not apply.

share|improve this answer
What law is applicable on an aircraft is irrelevant to the determination of nationality. The convention does not say that birth on an aircraft is treated the same as birth in the country's territory. Every country's nationality law applies everywhere. – user102008 Dec 18 '13 at 7:23
The 1961 Convention is rarely relevant, because it only deals with people who would otherwise be stateless at birth, which is extremely rare. Probably 99.9% of people would have some nationality from jus sanguinis, even without a place of birth. – user102008 Dec 18 '13 at 7:24

In principle the law of the native country of the carrier decides. So the answer first really depends on the airline. Then there are complicating factors. Some countries dictate their nationality to offspring of their nationals no matter where they are born. Other countries say that once born on native soil you are by definition their citizen.

So the main answer is that is depends on the the local law of the carrier.

share|improve this answer
Any country's nationality law applies everywhere. Who is a country's national is solely decided by that country. The law of the country of the carrier is no different than the law of any other country in this respect. – user102008 Dec 18 '13 at 7:18

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.