What to do if a child is born on a flight during travel? What will be the child’s legal status?

citizenship of a child

When a baby is born in plane, there are different questions arise in the mind of people about the citizenship of a child. Its quiet complicated to answer the citizenship question. Every country follows different kind of rules when it comes to citizenship. A pregnant woman gets the labour pain in-flight travel and assume that the child is born in the plane. Now everyone has a doubt which country’s citizenship does the baby get? Here we are going to see about the legal status of the child born in plane during travel. There are different rules governing the citizenship for the baby born is either jus soli or jus sanguinis.

Rules for pregnant women 

Commercial airline do not allow the pregnant women to fly after 36 weeks of gestation, where some international flights have restrictions on it. The pregnant women are advised to get proper advice from the doctor before boarding the flight. After 28 weeks, medical certificate is compulsory for a flight travel by pregnant women.  There are different rules and regulations on when and how long pregnant women can fly by various airlines around the world. Air travel is not recommended for pregnant women with medical or obstetric conditions that may be exacerbated or that require emergency care. [i]

Jus soli 

It means “Right of the Soil”. The United States and some other parts of countries, follow the jus soli. When a person is born in territory of particular country, then the person has the right of nationality or citizenship. Jus soli is the most common means to acquire citizenship of that particular nation. Some countries have completely abolished this system.[ii]

Jus sanguinis 

It means “Right of Blood”. The child gets the nationality acquired by one or both the parents. The child automatically becomes the citizen of the state where the parents has acquired the citizenship. This system is applicable to almost all states in the world. India follows this system for acquiring citizenship.[iii]

For instance, an American woman who is pregnant boards a flight. After some hours of travel in the plane, for about 34, 000 feet above the Pakistan. The baby is born in the plane directly above the Pakistan territory. Everybody is fine as the baby and mother are safe. Now everyone questions about the nationality of the baby born. As American mom boarded in German airplane and the baby born in Pakistan territory, in which country the child acquires the citizenship? Whether it is American, German, and Pakistan?

To make it clear, the baby gets the citizenship of the country where the plane is registered or the citizenship of their parents. The US aircraft do not provide citizenship for those who are born in the plane. Where it depends upon the country the baby born, some countries do not give citizenship for the babies born in sky during travel. So it is better to check about the countries citizenship rules. There are plenty of cases where the babies are born in flight. The women who were not aware that she was pregnant gave birth to a child. There are many cases of women to give birth to child during a travel. There was another woman who gave birth to child on her flight to United States, travel to countries hoping to acquire the citizenship via jus soli.[iv]

In India, jus soli (Right of the Soil) was completely abolished in the year 1987. India follows jus sanguinis (Right of blood). A person born during flight travel gets the nationality of his parents. According to Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 when a person born on Indian territory on or after 3rd December 2004 are considered to citizens of India, only if both of their parents are citizens or any one of the parents to be citizen of India and the other parent should not be an illegal migrant at the time of his birth (section 3). If the condition mentioned in Citizenship Act, is satisfied the person can acquire citizenship of India.

Free flight travel 

There is a strong myth that a person born in flight can acquire a free flight travel for lifetime. The airlines do not provide free flight travel for the baby born in flight. The airlines have provided one or two free travels in some cases of child born in flight. Many people believe that person born on flight have certain privileges on that airline but it is not true.


Nobody wishes to give birth to child on plane during travel. In birth certificate, the place of birth for the baby in flight is the air. We have seen that the baby born in flight will have citizenship of their parents, the citizenship of the country where the aircraft is registered. The baby born in sky is complex and it happens in rare cases. It’s something different and interesting when the baby born on flight during travel.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[i] https://www.tripsavvy.com/flying-while-pregnant-policies-3994876

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_sanguinis

[iv] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-nationality-is-a-baby-born-midflight

Shantha Gopika R
I'm Shantha Gopika R pursuing B.com;LLB (Hons) from SASTRA Deemed to be University. My areas of interest are company law, family law and property law. I am a good listener. I like to learn new languages and prefer to do research on various topics. I am fascinated by music and thriller series