Babies Born In The Skies

Babies and aeroplanes give rise to issues that have long been the subject of curiosity. What nationality is a baby born during a flight? And is world citizenship merely a legend? Read on for the answers…

Babies Born In The Skies

Babies Born In The Skies

Although it doesn’t happen often, there are occasions when babies are born during a flight. This raises the interesting issue of what nationality babies born on international flights should be given. Let us first state that the idea that babies born during a flight become world citizens is nothing but a legend. In cases of in-flight births, the issue has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis according to the regulations of the country. There are two basic principles by which citizenship is granted. The first of these is ‘jus sanguinis’ (Latin for ‘right of blood’) in which citizenship is granted according to that of the parents; and the second is ‘jus soli’ (Latin for ‘right of the soil’), in which citizenship is granted according to the country in which a person is born. Some countries implement one of these principles, while some implement both. For example, many European countries do not recognise the principle of ‘jus soli’ and do not grant the right of citizenship to babies born within their borders unless the mother or father is a citizen of that country. The United States of America, on the other hand, recognises the principle of ‘jus soli’, with certain exceptions.

Therefore children born within the country’s borders are granted the right of citizenship irrelevant of the citizenship of their parents.


A look at Turkey’s laws shows that the country allows for both principles to be observed. Law no. 5901 on Turkish Citizenship provides for ‘just sanguinis’ with the statement, “A child born to a Turkish mother or through a Turkish father within the unity of marriage either in Turkey or abroad is a Turkish citizen,” and for the principle of ‘jus soli’ with the statement “a child born in Turkey, but acquiring no citizenship of any state by birth through his/her alien mother or father is a Turkish citizen from the moment of birth.”


In order to prevent situations of statelessness, the United Nations (UN) has developed international regulations. One of these is the 1961 UN ‘Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness’. According to this convention, babies born in the air are considered citizens of the country in which the plane is registered. For example, if a baby is born on a plane while it is travelling through international airspace and if it is not possible for the baby to take on the nationality of his/her parents, if the country in which the plane is registered is a signatory of the 1961 convention, the family can request that the child be granted citizenship of that country.

Babies Born In The Skies


Another issue that raises questions is that of the child’s birthplace. Just like citizenship, the UN and all individual countries have their own procedures for determining geographical limits. However, according to the UN, in cases of in-flight births the baby’s birthplace is considered to be the first country in which the plane lands. As cases of such births are not common enough to require universal norms throughout the world, there has so far been no need to develop international regulations on the issue.

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