After public outcry, Irish carrier Ryanair has ditched its controversial new policy for South African travelers which included a knowledge test administered in Afrikaans. Critics called the test “racist” and Ryanair backed down after initially defending it.
Ryanair Ditched Afrikaans Test, With CEO Calling It Inappropriate
Citing a growing number of passport fraud cases and claiming to face steep fines for transporting those with fake passports, Ryanair recently instituted a new test for South African passengers.
The test was administered to all passengers who were traveling to the United Kingdom or Ireland with a South African passport. Those passengers were presented with a 12-question written test in Afrikaans at the airport and were required to pass it or be denied boarding.
Afrikaans is the third most common language in South Africa behind Zulu and Xhosa. South Africa has 11 official languages, a marked changed from the Apartheid era in which English and Afrikaans were the two official languages.
Just days ago, Ryanair was still defending its policy, explaining:
“Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, we require passengers travelling to the UK to fill out a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans. If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund.”
But international outrage erupted over the decision to use Afrikaans. For example, South African Dinesh Joseph “seethed” with anger, according to the BBC, when asked to take the test before a boarding a flight from Spain to the UK:
“It was the language of apartheid! Being a person of color, especially from South Africa, you’ve experienced a lot…of racism.”
A Ryanair flight attendant told Live and Let’s Fly, “The test was in Afrikaans because almost all of our passengers from South Africa are white.” Even if true, that seems like a pretty flimsy reason considering many white South Africans were not brought up to speak Afrikaans.
Yesterday, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary announced the test had been scrapped.
“Our team issued a test in Afrikaans of 12 simple questions. They have no difficulty completing that. But we didn’t think it was appropriate either. So we have ended the Afrikaans test, because it doesn’t make any sense.”
Quite a change of view from just days ago, leading me to wonder whether this was all just another publicity stunt from O’Leary in the first place.
Ryanair has rolled back its controversial Afrikaans test administered to South African passengers traveling internationally to the UK or Ireland. In just a day, the test went being strongly defended to a test that doesn’t make any sense.” I suspect there is a better way to mitigate the use of fake passports than administer citizenship-style tests in a language only a small minority of South Africans speak.