From Shanghai Daily, Sept. 4, 2023, p. A4. Complete text:
Several recent incidents involving larger families during travel have highlighted the need for China to adapt to a different demographic after dropping its one-child policy.
The country’s push for second or third children to maintain population balance has made multiple-child families increasingly common, but our current systems and regulations appear ill-prepared for the shift.
In one recent case, a Chinese woman’s travel ordeal was caused by a clash between airline regulations and family needs, sparking an online debate.
The woman said on the Internet that she wanted to travel on a Sichuan Airlines flight with her family. She bought one adult ticket and three child tickets.
But upon arriving at the airport in the southwestern city of Chongqing, she was informed that she had to purchase an additional “unaccompanied child ticket” to board, because the airline restricts each adult passenger to two children.
In the end, the mother and her three children had to buy five tickets, raising questions about the logic of the situation.
In another case, a couple said they were denied the hotel room they reserved in Dali in southwest China’s Yunnan Province because the hotel owner said their three children wouldn’t fit in one room.
Late in the day, the couple were forced to find other accommodation.
There are reasons behind some of these outmoded rules. Safety concerns exist when parents travel with many children, and multiple-child families may incur higher water and electricity costs in hotel rooms. But those reasons do seem a bit far-fetched.
China’s Public Air Transport Passenger Service Management Regulations, implemented in September 2021, don’t specify a fixed number of children each adult passenger can bring on board a flight. That determination was left to carriers.
It is true that most passenger planes have seat configurations of one row with three seats, which means that if an adult takes a flight with more than two children, one child is likely to sit alone. It’s not safe should there be an emergency like air turbulence.
But where there are problems, there are solutions. Airlines can create seating to accommodate larger families or, at the very least, make sure the family members are seated close to one another if they cannot be seated together in a row.
Special training for airline cabin crew to deal with larger families is also essential.
Our society should welcome, not ostracize, larger families. It’s not just about convenience. It’s about making sure families can access services without feeling like they’re being treated unfairly or burdened with extra costs.
Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines now allow an adult passenger to accompany up to three children under 5 years old, excluding infants.
Other domestic carriers still maintain a maximum of two children.
Now is the time to address these issues in a China with changing population policies. It is not just about numbers; it is about creating a welcoming environment for families of all sizes.