July 4, 2022

When I first saw this story a couple of days ago, I assumed this was an isolated incident, and that there’s no way the airline would come out in favor of this policy. But nope, this is apparently legit.

Ryanair’s attempt to combat fraudulent South African passports

Ryanair, Europe’s largest low cost carrier, has been taking a controversial approach to combatting passport fraud. Specifically, for flights to the UK, Ryanair has been requiring South African passport holders to complete a quiz in Afrikaans, in an attempt to prove that they’re South African. If they can’t complete the quiz, they’ll be denied boarding and issued a refund.

As a Ryanair spokesperson confirms:

“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.”

The test, which is allegedly riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, asks questions about South Africa’s international dialing code, capital city, and who the president of the country is. To be clear, this test is required by Ryanair, and it’s not mandated by UK border authorities.

For context on why this is so controversial, during apartheid it became mandatory for South Africans to learn Afrikaans, as it was made an official language alongside English. Nowadays only 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as a first language, making it the country’s third most spoken mother tongue. South Africa has 11 official languages.

What am I missing here?

Admittedly passport fraud is a serious issue, and is something airlines around the globe have to deal with. Accountability surrounding this is a complicated matter — airlines are ultimately responsible for making sure passengers have valid travel documents, so that they can be admitted to their destination.

If passengers are found not to be eligible to enter a country, airlines may have the responsibility to transport passengers back to their origin, and may even be fined.

But I’m still so confused about this:

  • Passport fraud is a problem around the globe, yet I’ve never heard of a test like this being administered before; why is this being done specifically for South Africans traveling to the UK on Ryanair?
  • How does anyone think it’s reasonable to have a general knowledge quiz to determine whether a passport is legitimate in something that isn’t even the prevalent language in a country, let alone a language with such a troubling history?

Bottom line

Ryanair has been giving South African passport holders bound for the UK a general knowledge quiz in Afrikaans, in an attempt to weed out those with fraudulent passports. It goes without saying that this is problematic on several levels. I’m curious what exactly prompted this to begin with. I also find it dismaying that Ryanair isn’t even apologizing for the offense this has caused, but rather is doubling down on the practice.

What do you make of Ryanair’s Afrikaans quiz?

See also  New Delta SkyClub Access Limits As Of June 2022