Ryanair to drop Afrikaans test at check-in

A view across a Ryanair 737 wing at sunset.
Bene Riobó, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Ryanair is going to stop giving Afrikaans tests for passengers with a South African passport after major backlashes against the airline, accusing them of being discriminatory.

The test

Ryanair has implemented a written test for passengers holding a South African passport to prove their South African identity, as there have been many cases with fraudulent passport holders.

It is for that reason Ryanair resorted to giving the test, or as O’Leary would like to call it, “a simple questionnaire”.

This, however, doesn’t sit well with the people from that nation, as Afrikaans is a language mostly remembered for its racist, “white-led apartheid government on the country’s black majority.”

The backlash went as far as the country’s Minister of Home Affairs, Siya Qoza, calling the test a “backward profiling system.”

Another reason why the test was not fair for many is that while Afrikaans is an official language, it is not a lingua franca, i.e. the language is not the main language, or bridge language, for the country.

Afrikaans is only spoken by about 13% of the nation, and is mainly a secondary household language, according to the New York Times.

When talking at a news conference on Tuesday, O’Leary could be heard saying, “The South African government have acknowledged that there’s a problem with the vast number of false or fake South African passports.”

The closure

Ryanair has finally decided to stop giving the test away, after much backlash. Neither Ryanair nor O’Leary gave much information away as to why they implemented it in the first place, however.

It’s mainly the lack of information that both parties have given away that has made people angrier about the issue, and rightfully so, as the reasons, no matter how good or bad, give an insight into the thought process of a certain individual or organization.

It is also the lack of any apology by O’Leary that is angering people. While the airline may have stopped giving away those tests, it is the lack of remorse, or at least the feeling of lack of remorse, that puts people in a tight position. All it does is make them resent Ryanair.

English – Afrikaans sign
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ryanair is known to make very controversial moves just to put themselves into the spotlight for weeks on end, with O’Leary saying that it is basically free publicity. While it may have been possible that they have decided to do it on purpose just to get some more publicity or to be more relevant these days.

While it might have worked, it would have been a lot easier for them to create more meaningful ways to put more effort into creating good publicity, to attract more people into flying with them.

O’Leary explained to the same news conference the reason for scrapping the test:

“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’ve we didn’t think it was appropriate either. So we have ended the Afrikaans test because doesn’t make any sense.”

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