A baby has died after being born prematurely on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to New York in a medical emergency that forced the plane, with 279 people on board, to divert to Japan.

The women, understood to have been in the later stages of her pregnancy but medically cleared to fly, went into labour some hours after the Boeing 777-300 took off from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon.

Flight attendants rushed to the woman’s aid while the captain diverted the plane to Tokyo, where emergency services were put on standby.

The woman and her baby were rushed to a Tokyo hospital when the plane landed, but the infant passed away soon after landing.

The passengers were put up in a Tokyo hotel and given meal vouchers. The flight departed for New York yesterday afternoon and was due to arrive there early this morning Hong Kong time – some 16 hours behind schedule.

Cabin crew are understood to be deeply upset over the incident but received praise from colleagues in Hong Kong.

“They were absolutely brilliant and did everything they could in very difficult and distressing circumstances,” one colleague said. “It was just a terribly unfortunate thing to happen.”

Passengers more than 28 weeks pregnant are required by Cathay Pacific to obtain permission from a doctor before flying, which the woman apparently had done.

A Cathay statement said: “Cathay Pacific’s flight CX840, which departed from Hong Kong to New York at 4:22pm Hong Kong time on March 23, was diverted to Tokyo for a passenger to receive urgent medical care.”


“The flight landed at Tokyo at 10.33pm local time and the passenger was sent to the local hospital for treatment, accompanied by our staff in Japan.