The one-child policy is gone, but many of its old trappings remain
Several recent incidents involving larger families during travel have highlighted the need for a nation to adapt to a different demographic after dropping its one-child policy.
China'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 stated 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 kids 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 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 multi-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 an airline. That determination was left to the carriers.
It is true that most passenger planes have seat configurations of one row with three seats. That means an adult with more than two children has to seat extra children elsewhere on the plane, which can cause problems if there for a child sitting alone and air turbulence occurs.
But where there are problems, there are solutions. Airlines could 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 and China Eastern now allow an adult passenger to accompany up to three children under five years old, excluding infants. Xiamen Airlines and 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 isn't just about numbers it's about creating a welcoming environment for families of all sizes.