The delivery was successful, thanks to quick-thinking flight attendants, the serendipitous presence of two nurses on board and, seemingly, the world’s most thoroughly packed passengers.
“This is something you don’t get to see every day,” according to Missy Berberabe Umandal, a passenger who wrote about the surprise in-flight arrival in a Facebook post. “It only happens in movies, and we’re lucky to witness this miracle.”
Umandal said the woman began having contractions about halfway through the flight, prompting flight attendants to call for medical assistance.
“For once in my life, I saw flight attendants, who are meant to always maintain their poise and composure, panic ever so slightly,” Umandal wrote. As luck would have it, she added, there were two nurses on board who rushed to her aid.
According to Umandal, the baby was already crowning, so flight attendants took the mother to a more spacious area in the front of the plane and helped her deliver the baby in what sounded like only one push.
“We only heard one semi-loud screech, and a few seconds later, there were tinier, cute screeches, and it was when we knew the baby was born,” Umandal wrote. Flight attendants cleaned the baby off with mineral water in a makeshift wash basin, she said.
The baby, a girl, was named Haven, according to a statement from the airline, which heralded her as the “first baby born onboard” a Cebu Pacific flight.
In another coincidence, the flight happened to include two other babies (already born, that is), which meant another passenger had a suitcase full of infant clothes that “could not have come at a better time,” Umandal said.
The airline said it diverted the plane to Hyderabad, India, so the mother and baby — born prematurely at 32 weeks — could receive medical attention. What was originally a nine-hour flight became an 18-hour one.
Still, there were “no complaints” from the passengers on the plane, Umandal wrote.
“Everyone in that plane was blessed,” she wrote. “To the woman, in the hopes she gets to read this: We understand you are resting and giving time to take care of your baby, but we are all hoping for your quick recovery and a lifetime of happiness to your beautiful child!”
Cebu Pacific Airlines is a low-cost carrier based in the Philippines. The airline celebrated the unusual in-flight incident on its social media accounts and gave the newborn 1 million frequent-flier points. The points have no expiration date and can be shared with her family, the airline said.
“Welcome to the world, baby Haven, from Team Childbirth!” members of the flight crew announced in a recorded video greeting.
The question of citizenship for babies born mid-flight to parents who do not have U.S. citizenship is complicated, said Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst with the nonprofit Center for Immigration Reform.
“There’s no international rule on this,” Feere said. None of the countries involved in the Cebu Pacific birth — the United Arab Emirates, India and the Philippines — grant automatic birthright citizenship for individuals born on their soil, so it would likely come down to a question of the parents’ citizenship and the rules of that country, Feere said.
The nationality of the newborn baby’s parents is unknown.
“I would be willing to bet that [the parents’ country] would do what most countries and do and grant that child the same citizenship as the parents,” Feere said. “I don’t think the child will have to worry about being stateless.”
Babies born on airplanes are uncommon, but not unheard of. According to several outlets, a woman gave birth last fall to a premature baby while on a 19-hour China Airlines flight from Taipei, Taiwan, to Los Angeles. In April, the Straits Times reported that a woman flying Jetstar Airways from Singapore to Myanmar unexpectedly went into labor mid-flight and gave birth to a baby boy — whom she named Jet Star.