Airlines powerless against the pregnant

Fortunately, there aren’t many babies born on planes. Run the numbers on this one: it just doesn’t happen much. One would assume that rules around flying later in pregnancy have helped, but it turns out that these requirements really boil down to an honor system that leaves the carriers virtually powerless.

Of course, most pregnant women pay attention to the rules (or guidelines, in practicality), which is why there aren’t more kids named after flight attendants and pilots. The last four or five weeks of pregnancy are usually off-limits for the expecting. Some procedures are used to screen out passengers who probably shouldn’t be allowed to board, but they rarely stand up to the will of someone who doesn’t want to get caught.

According to the Associated Press:

[E]ven when gate attendants question how pregnant a passenger is, they usually have no choice but to let the woman fly if she says she has not reached the airline’s cutoff date and is showing no sign of physical distress, said Dr. Fanancy Anzalone, president-elect of the Aerospace Medical Association in Alexandria, Va.

“The rules now are based on honesty and (the idea) that a pregnant mom is going to protect her unborn,” Anzalone said.

The airlines can’t do much when they suspect a pregnant passenger shouldn’t board. They can bring in medical personnel to make the call and “determine whether she has the necessary medical documentation and is fit to fly,” Anzalone explained to the Associated Press. Once in the sky, the best that can happen is a bit of extra attention from the cabin crew and maybe a doctor or nurse among the passengers.

When it comes to looking for with-child passengers, there is an obvious risk of embarrassment … what happens when good intentions cause airline employees to question the obese non-pregnant? When it happens next, it’s my sincere hope that you’ll read about it here.

[photo by rumpleteaser via Flickr]