It was not weather or a mechanical problem that diverted a Spirit Airlines flight on June 22. It was the unscheduled arrival of an additional passenger, born midflight, that caused the plane from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas to make an unscheduled stop in New Orleans.
Cristina Penton was 36 weeks pregnant when she boarded the flight with her 11- and 12-year-old kids in tow. Penton had carried those two children to full term, and she thought she was far enough away from the third child's due date to make the trip.
Soon after takeoff, Penton wasn't feeling well. She alerted the flight attendants and they went into action, making her comfortable and giving her free water, for which the budget airline usually charges.
Then the contractions started. Luckily for Penton, a pediatrician and nurse were also on the plane. Though they repeatedly told her not to push, Penton said her water broke and three pushes later her son had arrived. Her fellow passengers clapped when they heard the baby's cries.
"It went really, really quick. There was no time to prepare or land or do anything," Penton said. "He did what he wanted. We were all just along for the ride."
So now, baby Christoph Carsten Lezcano, weighing in at 7 pounds and 19½ inches long, will have a story to tell anytime he produces his birth certificate. Under location of birth, where there would usually be a hospital listed, it says "other-airplane."
"A baby being born during a flight is very rare, but our flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies in flight and they have access to doctors on the ground via inflight communication," Spirit Airlines spokesman Paul Berry said.
Even though he was born a month early, doctors in New Orleans say Christoph is healthy with no complications. Because he is too young for vaccinations, and to protect him from germs, the family will drive home to Phoenix instead of taking the free flight offered by the airline.
Spirit will have a special gift for Christoph every year on his birthday: a free flight for him and a guest to anywhere the carrier flies.
The airline is also planning a special sale in honor of Christoph sometime soon.