When a trio of NICU nurses boarded a Delta Air Lines flight from Salt Lake City to Honolulu last week, they did not expect to facilitate a mid-air delivery. But when a woman went into preterm labor over the Pacific Ocean, they jumped into action.
"If anyone would like to know how our trip to Hawaii is going… here's how it started. We delivered a 26-27 weeker in the airplane bathroom, in the middle of the ocean, with three NICU nurses, a Physicians assistant, and a family medicine doctor we were able to make it THREE HOURS before we could finally land but the baby and mom did great," one of the nurses wrote in a Facebook post. "God was definitely with us up there."
The scary incident (that had a happy ending) was captured on TikTok last week and went viral. It all started when flight attendants — calmly — asked if there was a doctor on board.
It's the 'baby being born while we're above the Pacific Ocean' for me♬ original sound - Julia Hansen
"Everybody's kind of turning back to see what's happening, and then there's a lot of shuffling between flight attendants," one passenger, whose friend posted the viral video, told The Washington Post on Friday. "The speaker goes on and off like they're about to announce something but they don't. Then there's a little baby crying."
Delta Air Lines
The video then shows fellow passengers erupting into applause for the mother and her baby boy. When the plane landed in Hawaii three hours later, emergency personnel boarded to help the pair off to even more applause and tiny baby cries.
A spokesperson for the Kapiolani Medical Center in Honolulu told KHON2 that both mother and baby were brought to the hospital and are doing well. While the mom had already been discharged, the child remained in the NICU since he was born so early.
"The safety of our crew and customers is our top priority, and our crews are well trained to manage a number of on board medical scenarios," a Delta spokesperson told Travel + Leisure on Monday. "Every aircraft is equipped with medical equipment and crews have access to expert counsel during flight when an issue occurs."
Delta also expressed their gratitude with gift baskets to the doctor and nurses who supported the onboard birth.
While people don't give birth on planes every day, it does happen. In October 2020, a woman in India gave birth to a baby boy on a flight from Delhi to Bangalore; while in November 2019, a woman gave birth on an American Airlines flight from Florida to North Carolina, aptly naming the baby girl "Sky."
In February 2019, JetBlue renamed its plane in honor of a baby boy who was born on a flight heading from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
If a woman does give birth at 30,000 feet, the baby's citizenship can depend on a number of factors. In some cases if the baby is born over the ocean, the child could become a citizen of the country where the plane is registered, while some countries (including the U.S.) grant citizenship to a baby if it is born over that nation's land.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.