I attempted to board my flight to Sydney yesterday and the attendant stopped me, asked how many weeks pregnant I was, snatched my doctor’s certificate, and studied it suspiciously. “Wait here,” she said, while passengers politely sidestepped me and disappeared down the jetway.
Every airline has different regulations for flying while pregnant so even if you think you know, double check. Then check again.
At 31 weeks, it’s my last trip for the foreseeable future. Travel bag packed (so light when you’re kid free!), itineraries printed, vitamins bagged, routes planned, I even requested extra pillows for my hotel room. At the airport I had time for a cappuccino, a bit of reading, and some emails.
Of course, I also had my Doctor’s certificate. Told you I’m organised! Granted, it looked a little dodgy since it spent the last few weeks in my purse next to a leaking, liquid vitamin wrapper- The important fact being it gave me permission to fly for another three weeks.
The flight attendant scoured her computer, presumably looking for a loophole that would deny me access to that flight. I saw her shaking her head so I got ready to argue.
“Your certificate needs to be written within ten days of your flight,” she told me stonily and went on to speak to me about the safety of my unborn baby and that all airlines have different rules and regulations.
Even though I’m a low-risk pregnancy, and my certificate says I’m safe to fly for another three weeks, it’s all she needed to draw a line in the sand. Once she finally told me I could call my OB’s office and get a new one, the passenger line dissipated.
As luck would have it, a midwife answered my call and after breathlessly explaining myself (and supportive comments of disbelief from her) I had a new certificate in minutes…but it was too late.
“Can’t you let me on?” I pleaded, “the plane is still here.”
“Nope, we’ve completed our paperwork.”
“Paperwork? What does that even mean? Can’t you just open the door?”
“It means we took you off the manifest, we’re removing your bag, and we can’t delay the flight any longer.”
Finally, I lost my composure, “You said you wanted to ensure the safety of my baby but you’re causing me more stress now than if you would have just let me on the plane.” And finally the undignified “This is so unfair.”
They booked me another flight, at no charge, and I cried.
It’s not that I’m angry they stuck to the rules, I understand that regulations are in place to keep people safe, I’m upset at the way they treated me. If they told me mere minutes earlier to call my Doctor’s office, I would have had time to board the flight. I felt powerless, silly, and desperate.
Luckily my husband didn’t answer when I called him or I don’t think I would have been able to get the words out. I sent him a shaky text, shuffled into the bathroom to finish my tears, bought a chocolate bar, and wrote a strongly worded email to Virgin. By the time Matt called me back I could speak without the wobbles.
“At least now you have a story to tell,” he said. Bless the man, he gets me.
Note: One reader pointed out that if flying while pregnant is a ‘health risk’ than the guidelines should be regulated by a health organisation, not left up to individual airlines. Makes sense!
Don’t let this happen to you. Be aware of airline rules and regulations- they do differ slightly. Here’s a directory of popular Australian airlines with links to their policies about Flying while Pregnant see below.
Earlier this week Virgin responded with some standard messaging-type email where they claimed I was responsible for not having the correct paperwork (true, but my complaint was about poor service, not their flight regulations) in the email they stated:
“However as a goodwill gesture, our Ground Crew offloaded you from the original flight and rebooked you onto the next available flight as the flight cannot be held or delayed.”
Incredibly unhappy with that response, I wrote back to them, again, pointing out my issue with their customer service, the stress they caused me, and pointed out that my little post about the incident went viral and was picked up by Babyology and exposed to even more readers.
Today I got an email telling me that they will credit my frequent flyer account by 5,000 points. This is a generous gesture but it’s unfortunate that it took me standing up on my soapbox, in front of an audience of tens of thousands of readers to get their attention.
I wrote them back telling them that I am grateful for the points but disappointed that another Mother might experience the same callous treatment but that she might not have a platform like I do.
I can only hope that a. the particular staff member is re-trained for sensitivity and b. that someday a governing health body, not individual airlines, can come up with a standard guideline for all to follow for flying during pregnancy.
For now, it’s time to move forward. The only luggage I’ll pack in the near future is my hospital bag. Thanks for reading everyone!
Australian Airlines: Rules For Flying While Pregnant
- Virgin: After 28 weeks you require a letter from your doctor or midwife, dated no more than 10 days prior to travel, outlining the estimated due date, single or multiple pregnancies, the absence of complications, and your fitness to fly for the duration of the flights booked. Read more here.
- Qantas: After 28 weeks you need a note confirming due date, whether it’s a single or multiple, whether the pregnancy is routine or there are complications. Read more here.
- Jetstar: Estimated due date; whether this is a single or multiple pregnancy; whether this is a routine pregnancy, and stating that there are no complications with the pregnancy. Read more here.
- Air New Zealand: Beyond your 28th week you need a letter from your doctor or midwife saying you are fit for travel, confirming your pregnancy dates and that there are no complications. Read More Here.