Airline stops forcing South Africans to prove they speak language with racist legacy before boarding 

Ryanair had been making travelers to England pass a test in Afrikaans, the language associated with South Africa’s apartheid regime.

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An Irish budget airline is removing a language requirement for South African passport holders traveling to the United Kingdom. Ryanair had been making those passengers pass a written test in Afrikaans, the Dutch-based language that has a racist legacy in the majority-Black country. 

According to the New York Times, Afrikaans is the third most widely used household language in the country, the first dialogue of 13% of its population. In more households, 23 percent, Zulu is spoken, the most of South Africa’s many languages. 

Passengers board a Ryanair flight to Spain from Berlin Brandenburg Airport in Berlin, Germany, last September. The Irish airline is no longer making South African passport holders take a written test in the Afrikaans language. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Ryanair announced Wednesday it would be removing the test after backlash from the public, including calls for a boycott.

“Our team issued a test in Afrikaans of 12 simple questions, like what’s the name of the mountain outside Pretoria?” Michael O’Leary, its chief executive officer, told journalists, per the Times. “They have no difficulty completing that.

“But we didn’t think it was appropriate either,” he continued, according to the BBC. “So we have ended the Afrikaans test, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

The company had previously justified the quiz by saying its use identified England-bound travelers flying with fake South African passports. Passengers who could not complete the questionnaire were issued refunds. 

However, travelers insisted that the test was triggering, given the Afrikaans language’s racist history. Dinesh Joseph, a South African native who took the test when flying to London from the Canary Islands, called it an “insanely discriminatory” practice.

One of South Africa’s 11 official languages, Afrikaans was developed by many of the country’s white settlers, who came from the Netherlands. It is mainly associated with South Africa’s apartheid regime of white minority rule that came to an end in 1994.

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