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Airline Says South Africans Must Speak Colonizer Language of Afrikaners, Pass Test To Fly

Airline Says South Africans Must Speak Colonizer Language of Afrikaners, Pass Test To Fly

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Photo: The Ryanair plane, May 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Irish low-cost air carrier Ryanair is under fire for asking South African travelers to pass an Afrikaans language test to prove their nationality before boarding flights.

The airline, which was founded in 1984 and headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is being accused of racial discrimination after presenting passengers with an Afrikaans test.

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that was forced upon Black South Africans under apartheid and is only used by an estimated 12 percent of the population, CNN reported. 

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial oppression that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s.

Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in South Africa after Zulu and Xhosa.

South Africa has more than 10 national languages, but Zulu is the most widely spoken household language, with 23 percent using it. The second is Xhosa at 16 percent. Afrikaans is third at 13 percent. English is the household language of 8 percent of South Africans, The New York Times reported. 

Ryanair’s Afrikaans test came to light after a passenger traveling from Portugal to London revealed on Twitter that he’d been asked to complete “a two-page test in Afrikaans” before being allowed to board his flight.


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“@Ryanair Just tried to check in. Flying Portugal – London. On a South African passport but have a UK residence permit. Was made to write a 2 page test in Afrikaans (asked for an English version but told the test was only in Afrikaans – btw SA has 11 official languages),” tweeted Will vd Byl on May 22.

He continued, “Was told if I didn’t get 100% I wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Only after writing the test and having my answers checked was I given my boarding pass. What the actual F @Ryanair. This is outrageous. Can you please explain? @RyanairPress.”

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According to Ryanair, the test, which is composed of questions related to South African general knowledge, was issued as a response to the “high prevalence” of counterfeit South African passports.

“In order to minimize the risk of fake passport usage, Ryanair requires passengers on a South African passport to fill out a simple questionnaire in the Afrikaans language,” reads a statement from the airline provided to CNN.

“If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund instead.

Photo: The Ryanair plane with registration number SP-RSM, carrying opposition figure Raman Pratasevich which was traveling from Athens to Vilnius and was diverted to Minsk after a bomb threat, lands at the International Airport outside Vilnius, Lithuania, May 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)