Airline's Afrikaans Test Angers Passengers

Ryanair says it's trying to catch passport fraudsters
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2022 8:10 PM CDT
Travelers Object to Test in 'Language of Apartheid'
A Ryanair plane parks at the airport in Weeze, Germany, in 2018.   (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Ryanair's "simple questionnaire" designed to cut down on passport fraud immediately caused the budget airline complications. "Bigoted rubbish," one person posted online. "Pretty racist," said another. When the South African government expressed concern about an increase in the use of fake passports, Ryanair's response was to devise a general knowledge test—which is not required by UK or Irish border agencies—to give passengers to root out imposters, the BBC reports. "If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund," the Irish airline announced.

The test was written in Afrikaans, the third-most used language in South Africa, behind Zulu and Xhosa. Black South Africans were forced to use Afrikaans during the apartheid era, per the Guardian. A South African passenger going to London described his passport and boarding pass being taken from him, replaced by the test. When he objected, Dinesh Joseph said he was told, "This is your language." Joseph said being able to speak Afrikaans does not make someone more South African than anyone else, and added that he was seething. "It's callous and insensitive to force people to write a test which would evoke so much emotion around it—the language of apartheid was Afrikaans," he said.

The content of the test drew objections, as well, with some saying that knowing which side of the road South Africans drive on or the country's international dialing code does not prove a passenger is rightfully holding a passport. The company did not say why it chose Afrikaans. The head of the Afrikaans Language Board in South Africa also was displeased, saying the "absurd" test had hurt progress in improving the image of the language. (More Ryanair stories.)

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