Cape Town - An average of 10 families a day are being denied boarding to South Africa from Heathrow International Airport in London, for failing to adhere to the new visa rules that require of all minor travellers to travel with an unabridged birth certificate.
This is according to British morning newspaper The Independent, reporting that the majority of denied-boarding cases involve passengers who book through online travel agents for airlines that do not fly direct.
UPDATE: DA Tourism Minister pleads with Ramaphosa to escalate roll-out of e-visas
One of these travellers, Grant Hughes from the UK, told The Independent he was booked to fly from Heathrow to Addis Ababa and on wards to Durban with Ethiopian Airlines. Hughes hoped to travel to Durban with his fiancee and his two children, aged 11 and 15, for their wedding in the city on 16 December. But Ethiopian Airlines, which had not told them birth certificates were obligatory, refused to let them board the plane.
Chief Executive of the Southern African Tourism Services Association, David Frost, confirmed the the issue, saying on a typical long-haul flight departing for South Africa, between 10 and 20 people are being denied boarding.
“The issue happening in the UK is just an indication of South Africa’s ridiculous regulations,” he says.
“It’s an appalling way to behave when we should be doing everything to foster tourism. With the Rand so favourable, we should have been growing at double digits, but out of the UK we have been basically flat,” he says.
“What I don’t understand is if Cabinet said take those regulations away, why do you wait one more day? It’s just another day where people will not be able to board a plane, not know what is going on and just affect tourism overall.”
The new visa regulations have been in place for more than a year and a half, since June 2014. Though changes to the regulations were made, the process and developments have been widely publicised in local and international media, especially after award-winning actor Idris Alba was refused entry to South Africa for not having the necessary documentation for his daughter.
SEE: Home Affairs twitter spat highlights concern about SA's visa rule changes implementation
Home Affairs Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete says although the onus rests on travellers to carry the necessary documentation, "it doesn’t help when you have tourism leaders who are not encouraging people to comply to the rules".
"Whether they agree or disagree with the regulations, [the tourism leaders in South Africa] should have given more energy to informing travellers of the necessary documentation they have to carry," Tshwete says.
He says while some tourism authorities, like Lufthansa for example, are going out of their way to ensure travellers know of the necessary requirements, others are not paying attention to any changes, resulting in disappointment for families.
British Airways, South African Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which fly direct from the UK to Johannesburg and Cape Town, also say they do all they can to inform passengers about the new rules.
Are you travelling to/from South Africa this festive season? SA’s revised visa rules: What you need to know
- South African children travelling out of the country will still be required to submit the current child-travel requirements, including a parental consent affidavits as a means to protect the minors
- The validity of this affidavit will be extended to no longer than 6 months.
- For inbound travellers, the proof of original birth certificates or certified copies would only be required during the application process, as this is in line with practise in many other countries. (As is the case with the South African Children travelling in and out of South Africa, the DHA advises that this form of identification still be carried and will reserve the right to investigate suspected child trafficking on a case by case basis.)
- Details of parents will also be printed in passports, so that parents whose particulars are printed would therefore not be required to carry the birth certificates. (However the DHA advises that this form of identification still be carried as a form of proof.
- Countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists.
- Cabinet also approved changing the term “unabridged birth certificate” to “birth certificate containing parental details”.
ALSO READ: Visa requirements for foreigners travelling to SA revised
Are you affected? Share your travel experience with us. You can email us at email@example.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.