Shocking: Ryanair Gives South Africans Afrikaans Quiz

Shocking: Ryanair Gives South Africans Afrikaans Quiz

37

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?

Conversations (37)
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  1. John Guest

    Great way to identify fraud

  2. Jkjkjk Guest

    Not mandated by UK gov? Just like wimbledon banning russians? Biggest joke of the year.

  3. Norman Guest

    To say that Afrikaans has a troubling history is not correct. It is a Dutch derived language originally spoken by less educated settlers of Dutch and French descent and the mixed race people who were the product of unions between these original settlers and the Dutch speakers. Up until the 20th century educated people of Dutch descent spoke both languages. Dutch was later dropped to unite the Afrikaans speakers who felt they were being oppressed...

    To say that Afrikaans has a troubling history is not correct. It is a Dutch derived language originally spoken by less educated settlers of Dutch and French descent and the mixed race people who were the product of unions between these original settlers and the Dutch speakers. Up until the 20th century educated people of Dutch descent spoke both languages. Dutch was later dropped to unite the Afrikaans speakers who felt they were being oppressed by those of English descent who until the apartheid regime of 1948 had the most political power in South Africa. From 1948 until 1994 the regime had a policy of Afrikaans hegemony directed against all non Afrikaans South Africans irrespective of color, but of course felt most acutely by the disenfranchised black community.
    My parents, of Lithuanian descent grew up in rural South Africa and spoke Afrikaans at home but stopped when they moved into the city. I grew up speaking both languages but subsequently attended English speaking schools and university. Afrikaans and modern Hebrew are the world's two fastest growing modern languages.
    The test required not only a knowledge of Afrikaans but general knowledge and a good degree of cognitive function. I am surprised that everyone simply did not discard the questionnaire.

  4. Brian Guest

    Afrikaans is the primary language of white farmers and those who live in the Cape Town area. So unless they suspect an influx of immigrant farmers or the flight is originating in Cape Town, they're unlikely to catch many real users of fake passports.

    1. John Guest

      Brian you do not understand SA at alllllll

  5. Never In Doubt Guest

    Ryanair should just refuse to transport any passengers with SA passports on flights to Ireland.

    Problem solved.

  6. InLA Guest

    This quiz is going to fail in the near term. Eventually, the quiz will be posted and available publicly and those with fake passports will have learned the answers. It would difficult to keep changing the questions because that would require the Ryanair employees to also understand Afrikaans or they wouldn’t be able to score the tests.

  7. Robert Guest

    This isn't applicable at all to this knowledge test but reminded me of an experience I had. About 10 years ago my young daughter needed a surgery. Before the procedure the Dr came to explain it to us and to answer any questions we had. My wife spent her teenage years in Europe and asked the Dr (racially he was of European decent) if he was from South Africa. He was surprised that she knew...

    This isn't applicable at all to this knowledge test but reminded me of an experience I had. About 10 years ago my young daughter needed a surgery. Before the procedure the Dr came to explain it to us and to answer any questions we had. My wife spent her teenage years in Europe and asked the Dr (racially he was of European decent) if he was from South Africa. He was surprised that she knew where he was from and he answered yes, he had grown up there but now he was an African American...

  8. derek Guest

    How many Canadians would pass a similar test if given in French and geared for Canadian facts? Not everyone.

    The article reads: 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.

    How many Americans could answer the international dialing code? I suspect it is not an extremely high number. It might be 40%. Some...

    How many Canadians would pass a similar test if given in French and geared for Canadian facts? Not everyone.

    The article reads: 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.

    How many Americans could answer the international dialing code? I suspect it is not an extremely high number. It might be 40%. Some might say "011?" How about who the president is? Of course, it's Trump. He won in 2020, making him ineligible for a 3rd term in 2024.

    1. JWags Guest

      Almost any American traveling abroad knows you need +1 in front of your number. Whether it be for getting a wifi code, or a contact number, etc...

      Millions of Americans don't know the code, I'm sure, but they also won't be flying overseas by and large

  9. Peter Bruinewoud Guest

    At 21 I had a passport of a country I wasn’t born in (inherited from my parents) and a passport of my birth country. I could not have answered a question in the language of my 1st country. Hence, my passport is thus fraudulent….. ?

    1. JWags Guest

      Could you have answered simple questions about the country? Capital, dialing code, etc?

      The Afrikaans bit here seems wacky, but otherwise I don't see much of an issue with some sort of identity verification in the face of previous issues.

    2. John Guest

      Did your SA parent tell you nothing of SA or did you just not show interest.... for the latter then you are correct in your statement.

      As jy nie verstaan nie dan behoort jy ook nie n SA paspoort te hê nie.

  10. AlanD Guest

    If there's a real issue then A questionnaire is merited. However, it should be available in Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. Those are the 4 biggest languages, and if you don't speak at least one of them, it is probably questionable if you really have the resources to be traveling, and therefore may be a fraud. Only offering it in Afrikaans is about as fair as only offering British citizens a form in Welsh.

  11. TravelinWilly Diamond

    This is one of the most dunderheaded things I’ve read in a long long time.

    It’s disgusting, too.

    Btw, Heathrow is cutting pax numbers this summer. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/holidaymakers-face-another-month-of-chaos-as-heathrow-cuts-passenger-numbers-by-a-third-6q5cbfhd0

  12. LarryInNYC Gold

    Among the many other blisteringly stupid aspects of this plan (mentioned by other users), does Ryan Air really believe that copies of the questionnaire, with answers, are not circulating among the people who go to the trouble of the obtaining a fake passport?

    1. Syd Guest

      I don't think Ryanair cares if they pass the test honestly or cheat - but when govt tries to hold them liable for bringing in an illegal & force them to fly him back, they'll have something to prove that they took the extra step and did what they could.

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      @LarryInNYC - you might be surprised by how little beyond the absolute basics of their cover identities most of these kind of passengers know. They usually have paid a trafficker in their home country a huge sum for the travel document, and they only receive the document and their cover identity a few hours before travel. These are rarely educated or worldly people either, so a few basic questions like this about a foreign country...

      @LarryInNYC - you might be surprised by how little beyond the absolute basics of their cover identities most of these kind of passengers know. They usually have paid a trafficker in their home country a huge sum for the travel document, and they only receive the document and their cover identity a few hours before travel. These are rarely educated or worldly people either, so a few basic questions like this about a foreign country would easily trip them up.

      This kind of test can be quite effective to trip up travelers using assumed identities. However, the historic context with respect to Afrikaans is what makes this particular test unfit for purpose.

  13. Nick Guest

    The UK needs to make a change to require South Africans to get a visa.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      South Africans are already required to obtain UK visas. However, they can travel visa free to Ireland, from where they can travel onward to the UK without any further checks.

    2. Franklin Guest

      It always tickles me to see how ridiculous things get when Britian insists on having its cake and eating it too. They wouldn't constantly be getting into such ridiculous situations if they didn't insist on hanging on to a little slice of their former colony.

  14. OliverBoliver Guest

    I have a Finnish passport and leaving Israel I once got asked to take a test in Finnish to prove I am genuinely Finnish. It also had a grammatical error in it. I am an immigrant who speaks okay Finnish so the only issue was the grammatical error which confused me. But it did occur to me then that Finland has two official languages (Swedish and Finnish) and not all Swedish speakers speak Finnish. That...

    I have a Finnish passport and leaving Israel I once got asked to take a test in Finnish to prove I am genuinely Finnish. It also had a grammatical error in it. I am an immigrant who speaks okay Finnish so the only issue was the grammatical error which confused me. But it did occur to me then that Finland has two official languages (Swedish and Finnish) and not all Swedish speakers speak Finnish. That said, I didn't get the impression that the person giving the test was really that concerned whether the answers were right or not.

  15. Michael Guest

    Clearly this is Ryanair trying to deal with the issue of some passengers traveling with bogus Sth African passports, who are not Sth African.

    Personally, I think from an Immigration point of view, this is a reasonable response from Ryanair to the problem that they are experiencing.

    If there is anything wrong with it, it's having to be able to read / write Afrikaans. Perhaps it should be in English also

    I have no...

    Clearly this is Ryanair trying to deal with the issue of some passengers traveling with bogus Sth African passports, who are not Sth African.

    Personally, I think from an Immigration point of view, this is a reasonable response from Ryanair to the problem that they are experiencing.

    If there is anything wrong with it, it's having to be able to read / write Afrikaans. Perhaps it should be in English also

    I have no doubt that this is as a result of Ryanair being fined many many thousands of Euro in various countries by people using these passports illegally

    Check in staff / Gate agents are not immigration officers and have no specialised training or equipment to detect bad passports and this will help sort out the good from the bad travellers

  16. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    14% of S.Africans speak Afrikaans as a primary language; up to 68%, if you count those who can speak it as a secondary or tertiary.

    The carrier doesn't see how this is a problem? They're likely gonna learn in court, if they dont....

  17. Simon Swanich Swanich Guest

    South Africa has a secure passport, fraudulent passports are non existent since they switched to the new passport type

    The problem is the officials in South Africa give the passport, corruptly, to everyone and his dog for a ‘fee’

    Their (faulty) logic is that you wouldn’t be exposed to Afrikaans anywhere besides South Africa

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      The SA passport is an easy back door into the UK because it is visa-free to Ireland, combined with the CTA between Ireland and the UK. So basically someone can buy a 5 Euro Ryanair ticket and wind up in the UK through this method to claim asylum, but when their claim is denied Ryanair now is on the hook for their repatriation costs to the country of origin, whatever that country may be.

      ...

      The SA passport is an easy back door into the UK because it is visa-free to Ireland, combined with the CTA between Ireland and the UK. So basically someone can buy a 5 Euro Ryanair ticket and wind up in the UK through this method to claim asylum, but when their claim is denied Ryanair now is on the hook for their repatriation costs to the country of origin, whatever that country may be.

      That can easily run into multiple thousands of pounds for straightforward cases, and even in the hundreds of thousands if the removal is conducted with escorts via special charters. So Ryanair has a vested interest to ensure that holders of these unauthorisedly issued (yet perfectly secure and legitimate from a document security standpoint) documents do not actually make it to the UK border.

      They have had similar "tests" and "bans" against other document holders in the past during periods of high concern over those documents. Their calculus back then was that it was worth it to deny boarding to a handful of legitimate passengers as the cost of that compensation and any legal settlements would be less than their Section 40 liabilities. That they continue to do so indicates that unfortunately that was probably accurate. It is only the media attention over this particular test that is probably going to force them to take another look.

    2. James Guest

      If the passports are authentic and have been issued in a corrupt manner, I do not see that it is RyanAir’s responsibility to determine the passenger’s actual citizenship/presence or absence of corruption. If such a passenger is deported from the UK, the South African government should be responsible for the transport fees as they corruptly issued the passport. this would also incentivize a crack down on corruption and get at the root of the problem

  18. Sean M. Diamond

    Not the first time Ryanair has done something like this. Just the first time that it's gotten media attention.

  19. Steven E Guest

    I am a little confused as Ryanair doesn’t fly to Sth Africa - where are these passengers coming from ? Random Sth African passport holders from “Europe”

    1. Espen Guest

      If you read the full article, you'll see that this applies to SA passport holders. And if you follow the links in the article, and backtrack further, you'll find that passengers allegedly met with this questionnaire have boarded UK bound flights from Lanzarote, or Turkey to Ireland. This blog also leaves out a small bit; "passengers travelling on a South African passport and _who are flagged during procedural security profiling_ "

    2. Daniel from Finland Guest

      "who are flagged during procedural security profiling"
      Meaning: who are black?

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      @Daniel - Actually, my understanding is that this is targeting those of Caucasian (Iran/Iraq/Syria) and South Asian (Sri Lanka/Bangladesh/Afghanistan) ethnicity based upon current intelligence regarding proliferation of unauthorized SA passports.

    4. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Okay, thanks! I guess that's better although still a bit sensitive if they pick people baesd on their looks.

    5. Manazir Guest

      There are South Africans living in the UK, Ireland, and rest of Europe you know that right?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

The SA passport is an easy back door into the UK because it is visa-free to Ireland, combined with the CTA between Ireland and the UK. So basically someone can buy a 5 Euro Ryanair ticket and wind up in the UK through this method to claim asylum, but when their claim is denied Ryanair now is on the hook for their repatriation costs to the country of origin, whatever that country may be. That can easily run into multiple thousands of pounds for straightforward cases, and even in the hundreds of thousands if the removal is conducted with escorts via special charters. So Ryanair has a vested interest to ensure that holders of these unauthorisedly issued (yet perfectly secure and legitimate from a document security standpoint) documents do not actually make it to the UK border. They have had similar "tests" and "bans" against other document holders in the past during periods of high concern over those documents. Their calculus back then was that it was worth it to deny boarding to a handful of legitimate passengers as the cost of that compensation and any legal settlements would be less than their Section 40 liabilities. That they continue to do so indicates that unfortunately that was probably accurate. It is only the media attention over this particular test that is probably going to force them to take another look.

5
Sean M. Diamond

@LarryInNYC - you might be surprised by how little beyond the absolute basics of their cover identities most of these kind of passengers know. They usually have paid a trafficker in their home country a huge sum for the travel document, and they only receive the document and their cover identity a few hours before travel. These are rarely educated or worldly people either, so a few basic questions like this about a foreign country would easily trip them up. This kind of test can be quite effective to trip up travelers using assumed identities. However, the historic context with respect to Afrikaans is what makes this particular test unfit for purpose.

4
Sean M. Diamond

South Africans are already required to obtain UK visas. However, they can travel visa free to Ireland, from where they can travel onward to the UK without any further checks.

4
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