Parents still tearing their hair out over ‘ridiculous’ travel laws
Scrapping the regulations could boost visitor numbers by 20%
Families travelling to South Africa are are still being caught out by stringent regulations on visiting with children, nearly two years after the regulations were introduced.
Since June 2015, parents travelling with a child under the age of 18 have been required to produce at the check-in desk their full unabridged birth certificate showing the names of both parents. Lone adults flying with their offspring had to show they had the consent of their non-travelling partner by way of signed affidavit. The rules were introduced to combat child-trafficking.
Anyone without the correct documentation can be turned away at their departure airport and told they cannot fly at the behest of airline staff. Some instances have left families thousands of pounds out of pocket and their holiday in ruins.
One Telegraph Travel reader, Susie Molteno, was forbidden from boarding an Emirates flight to South Africa in December after, she says, the online travel agent eDreams and the airline failed to disclose to her the documents required to fly with minors.
Also in December and on an Emirates flight, professional Indian cricketer Shikhar Dhawan’s wife and two children were turned away at Dubai as they were lacking the necessary birth certificates.
David Frost, chief executive of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), said the regulations continued to prevent families and their children from travelling.“There are still instances [of people being turned away at the airport] because we’re literally the only country in the world requiring people to actually travel with these documents as a way of proving the child-parent relationship,” he said. “No one expects this.”
“A lot of other countries in the world are incredibly proficient at combating trafficking – it’s a policing issue – so to simply introduce this draconian rule where bona fide travellers have to be encumbered by a whole lot of documentation is just ridiculous.”
Frost said that, though South Africa has enjoyed a “buoyant” year in terms of tourism, scrapping the regulations could boost visitor numbers by 20%.
He also said that the government passing responsibility for checking documents to airline staff is leading to more confusion, as check-in staff in the departure airports around the world are not trained in South African border control.
A glance at social media shows that, two years on, some travellers are turning up at the airport without the correct documentation.
“Some poor family just got told they can’t get on my flight from Atlanta to SA as they don’t have their 16 year old daughter’s birth certificate. They are devastated,” read one tweet posted on Christmas Day.
In November 2015, actor Idris Elba, who played the role of Nelson Mandela in a filmt, cancelled a trip to the country at the last minute after he did not have the proper documentation for his daughter.
In the wake of Molteno’s missed flight, eDreams said it had updated its terms and conditions to make it clearer that it is responsibility of travellers to check local requirements, as well as adding a warning notification to its booking confirmation emails for trips to South Africa.
A spokesperson apologised to Molteno and said they have refunded her flight costs, adding: “As local travel requirements differ for each country and can depend on the nationality, point of origin and the type of traveller, we do advise our customers that they are responsible for bringing the correct documentation for their trip.”
A spokesperson for Emirates, which flies to South Africa from the UK via Dubai, said that passengers who book direct with the airline are prompted to confirm they have all the necessary travel documents “to comply with the international laws of their destination”, adding: “Like all airlines, we must comply with the laws of every country in which we operate and this is a shared responsibility with passengers, who are required to hold valid travel documents for all countries on their itinerary?”
A spokesperson for British Airways, which flies direct to Cape Town and Johanesburg, said: “Individual customers, not airlines, are responsible for ensuring that they have all the documentation required to enter or leave a country, but we want to be as helpful as possible, and so provide information on ba.com and on the Manage my Booking pages of ba.com.”
A spokesperson for South African Airways said: “Fundamentally, travellers anywhere in the world, have a responsibility to know and comply with immigration requirements of any destination (country) they travel to.
“These requirements include basic items such as passports, visas and/or vaccination cards and they must be in place before travel.
“For the benefit of our customers, SAA still carries these reminders on platforms like our website and other booking channels.” — © The Daily Telegraph