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This baby was born on a flight from Fort Lauderdale. Now he'll fly free for life

By Miami Herald
Passenger Shelley Hedgecock Starks posted video of baby Christoph Lezcano in the arms of his mother Cristina Penton after Penton gave birth to him on a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas. [Shelley Hedgecock Starks | Facebook]

Little Christoph Lezcano is not the world's most patient newborn, but he may be the savviest.

The 7-pound baby boy was born mid-flight on a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas Saturday. The prize for being a rare aircraft baby? Free Spirit flights on his birthday — for life.

Lezcano's mom, Cristina Penton, of Phoenix, Arizona, boarded Spirit flight 971 from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Saturday night with her two young children. About 30 minutes into the flight, Penton, who was 36 weeks pregnant, told flight attendants she wasn't feeling well.

Although she didn't expect the baby to arrive for four more weeks, flight attendants started to scramble, calling doctors on the ground and checking if there was 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," Penton said via a press release.

The flight was diverted to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and medical personnel were called to meet the plane on the ground, Miramar-based Spirit said.

But Christoph was done waiting. The baby was born on the aircraft, measuring 19.5 inches. His birth certificate will say he was born in Louisiana.

Passenger Shelley Hedgecock Starks, who was seated behind Penton on the plane, captured video of the newborn Christoph in his mom's arms as nurse Rhondula Green tied Penton's umbilical cord.

"I don't think there has been a baby birth on a plane before so this is very special," Hedgecock Starks can be heard saying in the video. "I kept telling him, she is going to have this baby on the plane, I could sense it ... This is unbelievable."

Babies born during a flight are very rare, said Spirit spokesman Paul Berry. Flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies and have access to doctors on the ground in the case of a birth.

"In this case we were fortunate to also have a pediatrician on board who brought even more care and comfort to the situation," Berry said.

Spirit representatives met the baby at the Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana, to gift him his free lifetime birthday flights, valid for him and a guest. The airline is planning a special sale in his honor.

Safe to say the low-cost airline didn't charge extra for the unexpected passenger.