Skyborn: in-flight emergency births on commercial airlines

J Travel Med. 2020 Mar 13;27(2):taz042. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taz042.


Background: This study reports the global occurrence of in-flight emergency births on commercial airlines. To date, no existing research investigating in-flight emergency births has been published.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of all known in-flight births on commercial airlines between 1929 and 2018.

Results: Between 1929 and 2018, there were 74 infants born on 73 commercial flights. Seventy-one of the infants survived delivery, two died shortly after delivery and the status of one is unknown. Seventy-seven percent of the flights were designated international flights, and 26% of all flights were diverted due to the in-flight emergency births. The gestational age at delivery ranged from 25 to 38 weeks with 10% of the infants born at 37-38 weeks, 16% born at 34-36 weeks, 19% born at 31-33 weeks and 12% born prior to 32 weeks. Physicians, nurses, the flight crew and other medical personnel provided medical assistance in 45% of the births.

Conclusion: In-flight emergency births are infrequent but not trivial. Commercial airlines are dependent on physicians and other medically trained passengers to help with in-flight deliveries.Despite US Federal Aviation Authority and Joint Aviation Authority standards, on-board medical and first aid kits are depleted and inadequate for in-flight deliveries.

Keywords: Commercial aviation; emergency; in-flight birth.

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine* / statistics & numerical data
  • Aviation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Birth Setting* / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • First Aid / standards
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival