When first reported, it was a feel-good story with a happy ending as a Taiwanese woman gave birth during a China Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles. But new information and unanswered questions have added a twist to the tale, centering on the real due-date of the child.
Accounts of the birth posted on social media were provided to former China Airlines flight attendant Lucianne Chen by cabin crew who were on board during the flight. According to Chen, the mother failed to inform the crew that she was 36 weeks pregnant – a full month past the 32-week limit that Taiwan aviation regulations consider safe for expectant mothers to fly. In fact, any woman over 32 weeks into a pregnancy is required to have a doctor’s note in order to be allowed on a flight.
The woman, identified only as Jian, had her water break about six hours into the long-haul flight. Luckily help was readily available from a doctor who happened to be on board and assistance from the concerned cabin crew. The plane was diverted to Alaska while the baby girl was being safely delivered.
Reports say that Jian refused to deliver the baby until she was over US airspace, repeatedly asking those who were trying to help with the delivery “are we in US airspace yet?”
Speaking about the incident with ABC News, passenger Amira Rajput said that US Customs and Boarder Protection agents boarded the plane after its emergency landing and requested to see Jian’s passport. One of those agents told Rajput that this is more common than people think: foreign women hoping to deliver in the US to gain citizenship. If this turns out to be the case, Jian could be liable for the costs associated with the diversion of the flight, millions of New Taiwan dollars.
The mother and baby were taken to a local hospital when the plane landed, but the little girl is now under the care of Alaskan state authorities. Jian was deported back to Taiwan.
China Airlines is now facing questions about how they allowed an obviously very pregnant woman on board the flight in the first place. For now, mother and baby remain separated as authorities try to untangle the twists in the tale to determine if securing American citizenship for the child was Jian’s true goal.