The Afrikaanse Taalraad (Afrikaans Language Board) has slammed Ryanair’s policy to ask some travellers with South African passports to complete an Afrikaans quiz before they can board their flight.
Ryanair made headlines in South Africa this week after complaints from expats started appearing online, and MyBroadband and SAFM investigated them and brought them to light.
Afrikaans Language Board CEO Conrad Steenkamp told Rapport the quiz once again inflamed negative sentiments against the language in South Africa.
He added that the airline has no authority to test travellers before they can fly and that its policy had divided South Africans further.
Steenkamp explained that only around 20% of the population speaks Afrikaans. Ryanair’s quiz could result in most South African travellers being blocked at passport control, despite having valid passports.
“It makes no sense to use Afrikaans as a measure of South Africanness,” he said.
Ryanair later admitted to forcing South African passport holders to take the quiz, saying it had noticed a significant increase in passengers attempting to travel on fraudulent South African passports.
It further explained that it does not test every South African traveller and that certain people are flagged to take the test through “procedural security profiling”.
“Our handling agents may request passengers travelling on a South African passport, and who are flagged during procedural security profiling, to complete a simple questionnaire, as an additional safety assessment to confirm whether they are correctly documented before travel,” Ryanair said.
“As language proficiency is the least intrusive further safety assessment method, this questionnaire is conducted through Afrikaans, one of South Africa’s most prevalent official languages,” the airline stated.
MyBroadband recently spoke to a South African expat who said that she and her 11-year-old son were blocked entry to a flight from Ireland West Airport Knock to the UK two weeks ago.
She said she got three of the 15 questions wrong after being told the British government had put the test in place.
However, the British High Commission in Pretoria said this was not a UK Government requirement.
MyBroadband asked Ryanair for comment, but it had not answered our questions by the time of publication.