American Airlines Flight Diverts To Iceland When Woman Goes Into Labor

A woman went into labor today on American Airlines flight 87 from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare. The plane diverted to Reykjavik for the mother and child to receive medical attention. After just under two hours on the ground in Iceland, the Boeing 787-9 aircraft took off from the Keflavik airport bound for Chicago.

According to American Airlines, the passenger “was transported to a local hospital.” A spokesperson offered, “We thank our team members and medical professionals on board for their professionalism and quick action.”

Oddly this was the same Boeing 787-9, registration N823AN, that found itself on the ground in Iceland a week ago with electrical problems while operating a London to Chicago flight.

A pregnant woman usually isn’t supposed to travel during her last several weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes, though, babies come early. Women don’t know that they are pregnant, or how long they’ve been pregnant. Babies are born in the air. (American’s pregnancy policy is to require a doctor’s certificate attesting to the mother’s fitness to fly for all travel within four weeks of the due date.)

Citizenship laws vary somewhat by country, but following U.S. law (noting that it works differently in Europe):

  • If a baby is born in the sky above the United States, it is entitled to U.S. citizenship even if the baby has foreign parents and the aircraft is registered in a foreign country. So German parents, on a Lufthansa plane, where the mother gives birth above Massachusetts would see their child entitled to U.S. citizenship, in addition to German citizenship.

  • If a baby is born while the aircraft is over water, and the citizenship of its parents can’t be determined or – as occasionally happens – the parents are stateless, then it is generally entitled to the nationality of the aircraft. So a baby born on an American Airlines flight over international water to a stateless mother would be a U.S. citizen, because American Airlines aircraft are registered in the United States.

What is perhaps crazy is that this isn’t the first baby to be born on an American Airlines plane recently.

Several years ago a woman gave birth on a Saudia flight to New York. They declared an emergency just as they were about to head out over the Atlantic Ocean, dumped fuel, and turned around heading for London Heathrow. The baby and her family were given a free trip.

A woman also gave birth on Jetstar Asia. She named the baby after the airline, and they gave her $1000 in baby supplies. Meanwhile a baby born on a Cebu Pacific flight was given 1 million frequent flyer miles. And a baby born was born on a Jazeera Airways flight — and was given 18 years of free flights. American Airlines does not provide incentives for giving birth on its aircraft.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I guess the mother and baby don’t need a visa to enter Iceland because emergency?

  2. This child wont be an Icelandic citizen unless one of the parents is a current or former citizen of Iceland. For a current citizen of Iceland, their child would be an Icelandic citizen. For children born to former citizens of Iceland in Iceland, they are born with Icelandic citizenship only if their parent is ordinarily resident of Iceland at the time of birth.

  3. “Meanwhile, a baby born on a Cebu Pacific flight was given one million frequent flyer miles.” However, due to program devaluation, you may have insufficient SkyMiles to redeem for a one-way ticket if using one million Delta Airlines SkyMiles, the frequent-flyer program of Delta Air Lines.

  4. The US really needs to change their laws. Should only be a citizen if one or more parents is a citizen, and definitely not for just being on a US plane.

  5. US citizenship for being born under American territorial jurisdiction at the time of birth is just fine as is.

    If the whiners about American jus soli citizenship were to see everyone subjected to their own wishes to eliminate American jus soli citizenship and bar naturalization for any violation of law, a lot of them would be stateless or subject to removable to the “Old World”. The irony of that.

  6. The anchor baby plan has been going on since European colonization of the Americas began.

    Odds are that the woman’s child is going to be recognized as a natural-born US citizen abroad after some paperwork at the US embassy in Iceland.

    Anchor babies have been making America America since at least 1790. 😉

  7. Unfortunately, her baby will be get her mother’s nationality.

    US INA regulates the nationality must be on US soil which means jet bridge. Homeland Security is very strict with this rule. She didn’t make it to jet bridge caused her baby non-American.

    Remember Homeland Security can deny any documents issued by US embassy since Department of State is parallel to Homeland Security. That’s why many people got visa at US embassy but get denied entry at POE and visa revoked.

  8. The US-recognized foreign-born children of US parents — whether a father or a mother — is born a natural-born citizen of the US as long as it’s evident that a child’s US parent has met a US residency requirement test of five years prior to the child’s birth abroad. Mother or father, it no longer matters to meet the conditions for having a foreign-born child be considered a natural-born US citizen.

    US DHS cannot revoke the US State Department-recognized US citizenship of a natural-born US citizen born abroad or anywhere. Actually, no part of the US Government can revoke a minors’ US citizenship duly and properly recognized by the State Department. No wannabe jackboot CBP employee nor DHS Secretary can revoke such recognized US citizens’ citizenship. Creditian’s wishful thinking won’t make it otherwise.

    US visas aren’t for recognized US citizens. And bringing up US visas is irrelevant in this context.

    By the way, the hospital delivery costs for new born babies varies by country/locality as well as insurance coverage. Last I checked, US baby delivery-related charges from hospitals in the American Midwest for the uninsured was much higher than delivery-related charges in Europe for those insured by government health insurance plans in Europe. But for the US-insured, US baby delivery-related charges from hospitals in the US Midwest may be a good bit less than the baby-delivery-related charges for those without relevant health insurance coverage in parts of Europe for baby delivery at hospitals.

    By the way, then US President George Washington himself signed into law what he recognized and wanted: that the category of natural-born US citizens also include foreign-born children of a US parent (just US citizen fathers back then).

  9. We grant citizenship TOOOO easily..We need a better policy/ If a US citizen gives birth in another country –most will NOT grant citizenship!!!

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