There’s an urban legend floating around in the airline industry, that babies born on board a flight get a lifetime free ride with the airline. It certainly tickles the imagination, the idea of being able to go places anytime you want, all for free! Unfortunately, it’s a legend that has no basis in fact; airline agents I’ve spoken to deny that the airline has any such policy. In fact, airlines strongly discourage pregnant women to fly during their third trimester.
In general, airlines require a pregnant woman traveling during her ninth month to present a doctor’s “permission-to-travel” letter signed within 72 hours of travel. This is enforced based on an “honor policy”, however. It’s the passenger’s decision to inform airline agents that she’s expecting and how far along she is. So if the passenger misleads the airlines about her due date, or any risks her pregnancy might be having, she’ll have nobody to blame but herself. However, the airlines have the prerogative to restrict the passenger from boarding anytime they have doubts, or if signs of labor exists.
In some cases, though, some passengers do get away with it (especially if she’s carrying small). Most of the babies born on planes are also said to be “premature” babies; babies don’t necessarily follow the timetable, after all. So it’s always wise to just postpone any travel plans you might have, unless it’s an absolute emergency. Aside from the medical risks, imagine the discomfort you’ll feel being squeezed into a seat for hours, with the bathroom not so easily accessible. And if the plane encounters turbulence, all that shaking definitely won’t be good for the baby!
Just last May, a baby was born on a Delta Air Lines flight from Germany. The mom, who was nine months pregnant, went into labor enroute to Atlanta, forcing the plane to make an emergency stop in Charlotte, N.C. Luckily for the parents, there were two doctors onboard who delivered the baby. They even had to perform CPR since the baby wasn’t breathing or moving when he was born. By all accounts, the baby seems to be doing ok now, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the whole experience could have resulted in a preventable tragedy.