KENNER, La. -- Cristina Penton earned her family 21 years worth of free flights on Spirit Airlines. All she had to do was give birth midflight.
The Phoenix native was on board Spirit Flight 971 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Dallas when she went into labor.
Penton was 36 weeks pregnant when she boarded the plane, so she wasn’t expecting to deliver so soon, but her baby had other ideas.
“Everything started happening very quickly,” Penton said. “I didn’t think I was having the baby because it was too soon, but after a few minutes I knew I needed medical attention.
"The flight attendants contacted doctors on the ground and they advised the flight attendants to see if there were any medical personnel on board.
"As it turned out, there was a pediatrician and a nurse. Soon after that, it was clear I was having my baby and I was in pure panic.”
Before the plane could land at New Orleans International Airport, Christoph Lezcano was born, weighing seven pounds and stretching 19.5 inches long.
“A baby being born during a flight is very rare,” Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said. “But our flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies in flight and they have access to doctors on the ground via inflight communication.
"In this case, we were fortunate to also have a pediatrician on board who brought even more care and comfort to the situation.”
Mother and baby were transported to Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana, where both are reported to be happy and healthy.
“The Spirit crew was very attentive and took care of me throughout the flight,” Penton said. “They helped make what could have been a terrible situation as good as it could possibly be.”
Spirit paid for a rental car to drive Penton and her family back home, and showered baby Christoph with gifts, including a onesie that says "born to fly."