But nothing topped what happened halfway through their Delta flight to Hawaii.
Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, a passenger gave birth to a baby boy — although it wasn’t known to Hansen and Rowlan immediately.
Hansen was dozing off when Rowlan first heard flight attendants calmly asking if someone on board was a doctor.
“Everybody’s kind of turning back to see what’s happening, and then there’s a lot of shuffling between flight attendants,” Rowlan says. “The speaker goes on and off like they’re about to announce something but they don’t. Then there’s a little baby crying.”
In her now-viral TikTok video, Hansen captured parts of the commotion — from the overhead announcement informing passengers of the birth; to an eruption of applause for the mother; to a crew of EMTs boarding to provide medical assistance to the mother upon landing.
Passengers applaud once again as the mother makes her way off the plane in a wheelchair, crying newborn in tow. (Hansen omitted footage of the family’s faces to respect their privacy.)
Delta confirmed that a baby was born on the flight from Salt Lake City to Honolulu on Wednesday. A doctor and nurses on the flight responded to a call for medical professionals. No other information about the birth or the baby’s family was available Friday.
Several commenters wondered why the passenger was allowed to board if she was anywhere near her due date. Delta does not prohibit pregnant travelers.
“At Delta, we don’t impose restrictions on flying if you’re pregnant and don’t require a medical certificate for you to travel,” the airline says on its website. “If you’re traveling after your eighth month, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to be sure travel is not restricted.”
Aside from comments such as, “She just saved $20k in hospital bills,” and “The only time it’s okay to clap when the plane lands,” many viewers wondered about what such a unique delivery would mean for the baby’s birth certificate.
According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, “a U.S.-registered aircraft outside U.S. airspace is not considered to be part of U.S. territory,” and “a child born on such an aircraft outside U.S. airspace does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of the place of birth.” But if a child is born over U.S. airspace, they would be granted U.S. citizenship.
A representative from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Vital Records Office says the parents would need to register for the baby’s birth certificate in the county where the plane was passing. Other experts have said families should take birth certificate issues up in the state where they land.
“If a birth occurred en route, that is in a moving conveyance (e.g., an airplane) the place of birth becomes where the newborn was first removed from the conveyance, or in this instance, the airplane,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Scott Pauley in an email.
Once the plane landed, passengers waited for the mother to be escorted off by wheelchair first, then resumed disembarking normally like the miracle of life didn’t just unfold in their midst.
“It really didn’t take much time at all,” Hansen says. “After she had gotten out, everyone just kind of got up, got their carry-on and left.”
Rowlan adds, “It was so casual … but one kid was like, 'This is like from a movie scene!”