Woman who gave birth aboard China Airlines flight wanted to deliver baby in US airspace

A flight attendant holding up the baby girl wrapped in a blanket.
A flight attendant holding up the baby girl wrapped in a blanket. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

The Taiwanese woman who gave birth to a baby girl onboard a China Airlines flight earlier in October was 36 weeks pregnant, and had refused to deliver until the Los Angeles-bound plane was in US airspace.

According to news portal Shanghaiist, Ms Lucienne Chen - a former flight attendant with the carrier - took to social media to provide her account of the events, which had been picked up as a feel-good story by major news websites around the world when it first broke.

Ms Chen got her information from the crew on the flight, who are her former colleagues.

The woman, surnamed Jian, gave birth six hours into the 19-hour flight from Taipei to Los Angeles on Oct 8. A YouTube video of the birth was viewed more than 800,000 times.

Ms Chen's lengthy post in Chinese, which was put up on her Facebook page on Saturday (Oct 17) evening, alleged that China Airlines had "exploited the incident" for the benefit of the media.

The post has since garnered over 24,000 shares, attracting more than 4,000 comments.

She said the woman had failed to inform staff at Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport that she was 36 weeks pregnant, and had brushed off concerns by flight attendants prior to take-off by claiming that she was merely feeling bloated.

Aviation regulations in Taiwan stipulate that women who are more than 32 weeks pregnant are required to present a doctor's document certifying that they are fit to fly.

 

When the woman's water broke and she was told to lie down and prepare for delivery, Ms Chen claimed that she insisted she would give birth later and repeatedly asked those around her: "Are we in US airspace yet?"

Dr Angelica Zen, the physician who helped to deliver the baby, told several news outlets she was initially told "it was just a lady having some abdominal pain".

"But when I saw her she was, like, very pregnant."

The plane was diverted to Alaska's Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport after the successful birth, with mother and baby sent to a local hospital.

While it was unclear if the infant was given US citizenship, she is now under the care of the state authorities in Alaska. Her mother was subsequently deported back to Taiwan by the US immigration authorities.

News footage from Taiwanese media outlets showed the woman arriving back in the country with a jacket covering her face.