DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ryanair has dropped a requirement for South African passengers to prove their nationality before travelling by completing a test in Afrikaans, Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said after the policy drew a backlash amongst South Africans.
The South African government said last week it was taken aback by the low cost carrier’s decision to force UK-bound travellers holding the country’s passport to take the test, calling the move a “backward profiling system”.
Afrikaans is spoken by just 12% of the 58 million people in the country and often associated with apartheid and white minority rule.
O’Leary, whose airline does not operate flights to and from South Africa but carries more passengers around Europe than anyone else, described the South African government’s profiling accusation as “rubbish” but said the test had been dropped.
“The South African government have acknowledged that there’s a problem with the vast number of false or fake South African passports,” O’Leary told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, citing a surge in false South African passports on a route between Turkey and Ireland.
“Our team issued a test in Afrikaans of 12 simple questions like what’s the name of the mountain outside Pretoria? They have no difficulty completing that, but we didn’t think it was appropriate either. So we have ended the Afrikaans test because doesn’t make any sense.”
He didn’t explain why, of the 11 official languages in South Africa, that the test was offered only in Afrikaans; although the test was clearly devised by an Afrikaans-speaking South African who may have mistakenly thought that more South Africans would understand it.
WATCH Ryanair puts end to Afrikaans Test for South African passengers
(Reporting by Clement Rossignol in Brussels, writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin, Editing by Angus MacSwan)