Why does the poor travel so poorly?
Seven poor travellers in China’s far north are travelling on a plane from Hong Kong to Shanghai, despite being well-equipped to get there.
In the first of what could be a series of stories on poor travellers, the team behind the study has been unable to secure funding from a leading Chinese airline, and has been forced to rely on volunteers who travel in small groups, without a plane and without money.
The researchers say that, despite their poor health, they have done what it takes to get on a flight to Shanghai.
The team, led by Dr Jia Yu of the China Institute of Global Development in Beijing, travelled to the remote Shanxi region of the province in early October to study the health and lifestyle of its poor.
They were met by a group of elderly people who lived nearby.
The team were asked to sign up for a group medical check-up and an appointment for a flight, and then to pay the required fee.
Dr Yu says the elderly people refused to pay for the check-ups and had the team bring a note explaining the cost of the trip.
They did so, but the elderly did not follow through with the arrangements, she said.
“We were left with a big bill, as they refused to collect the money,” Dr Yu told New Scientist.
She added that, for this reason, the elderly had been reluctant to sign on to the study.
But the group was able to secure financial support from China Airlines, who are sponsoring the study, and had a flight booked to Shanghai for September 10.
“They gave us a very nice package, which was a very comfortable plane,” Dr Feng said.
The group then went to Hong Kong, but a couple of days later, the plane landed in Shanghai.
“They came and said we’re in the wrong airport, we can’t go to Shanghai,” Dr Wu said.
“We had no money and no plane.”
It was only after travelling for several days that they were able to collect their passports.
The researchers also met the elderly group members, who agreed to travel for free.
In a video, the researchers can be heard saying: “We’re just happy to get off this plane and get to Shanghai.”
The study found that while some of the elderly travellers who paid for their own trip had had heart problems or had been seriously ill in the past, none had been diagnosed with a heart condition.
Some elderly travellers had a history of chronic bronchitis, but this was not a risk factor for the heart problems, Dr Wu says.
The elderly travellers were also well-prepared for the journey.
A Chinese medical officer, Wu Guodong, who was part of the study team, says: “There are people who have a lot of money, and are able to travel on their own, so they don’t have to worry about the safety of the plane.”
“We want to give more attention to people who are not able to go,” he added.