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Airline Drops Afrikaans Test After Protest

FILE - A Ryanair plane parks at the airport in Weeze, Germany, Sept. 12, 2018.
FILE - A Ryanair plane parks at the airport in Weeze, Germany, Sept. 12, 2018.

Airline Ryanair has stopped challenging passengers carrying a South African passport with a test in Afrikaans, the language of the white settlers who held this nation until the end of apartheid, Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said after the policy drew a backlash among South Africans.

The South African government said last week it was taken aback by the low cost carrier's decision to force UK-bound travelers holding the country's passport to take the test, calling the move a "backward profiling system."

Afrikaans is spoken by just 12% of the 58 million people in the country and often associated with apartheid and white minority rule.

O'Leary, whose airline does not operate flights to and from South Africa but carries more passengers around Europe than anyone else, described the South African government's profiling accusation as "rubbish" but said the test had been dropped.

"The South African government have acknowledged that there's a problem with the vast number of false or fake South African passports," O'Leary told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, citing a surge in false South African passports on a route between Turkey and Ireland.

"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."