Taiwanese woman may face hefty bill for US plane birth

The airline is calculating cost of inconvenient diversion. Picture: AP
The airline is calculating cost of inconvenient diversion. Picture: AP
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A Taiwanese woman who gave birth on a flight to the US in what may have been an attempt to give her baby American citizenship could face a hefty bill for forcing a the plane to divert to Alaska.

The insurance firm of China Airlines will decide whether to ask the unnamed passenger to cover the cost of the stopover to ensure the health of her baby, the airline said yesterday. The flight made an emergency landing en route from Taipei to Los Angeles on 8 October.

Taiwanese media have estimated the bill at £21,000, but the airline said its insurer was still calculating the cost.

The local media have widely reported that the woman evidently wanted to give the child American citizenship. Taiwan’s China Times newspaper’s website said that, before giving birth, she repeatedly asked the cabin crew, “Are we in US air space?”

Alaska state officials say the baby is eligible for US citizenship. A baby born in flight has the right to be a US citizen if that is where the child first arrives, even if born in international air space, said Susan Morgan, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Social Services.

The incident has garnered widespread attention in Taiwan, even rising to the level of parliamentary debate earlier this week.

“This is a selfish act,” ruling party legislator Luo Shu-lei shouted to the transportation minister during a session on Monday. “It was clearly an act carried out to give the child US citizenship. She affected the travel of other passengers. Is there no punishment?”

The China Times website said the woman was 36-weeks pregnant, but she told the airline she was less than 32 weeks.

Under Taiwanese law, passengers must provide a medical certificate saying they are fit to fly if they have passed the 32nd week.

The woman, whose identity has been kept confidential, was sent back to Taiwan from Alaska on Saturday without the baby. US authorities have not said why.