OUR South African road trip adventure holiday to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, almost came to an abrupt end in the departure lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport just a couple of hours after we’d left Cardiff.

The Barnes family were sitting together eagerly awaiting the embarkation call for our KLM connection to Johannesburg after our short hop from Cardiff Airport, when my youngest son Ollie was approached by an airline official.

No introduction, no reason offered, no approach to us his parents - just a bald question: “How old are you?”

“Seventeen,” he answered.

“Do you have your birth certificate? ”

“Um, no I don’t. Do I, dad? Here’s my passport.”

“No, we need an original copy of your full unabridged birth certificate for you to be able to travel to South Africa. Without that you will not be able to enter the country and if you do travel and arrive without one you will be sent back and there will be no refund of flight costs. You will lose all that money. We, as carrier, will be fined for allowing you to travel without the correct paperwork. Come, come over to the desk.”

Ollie was understandably very concerned, as were we.

Our flight was due to leave in less than an hour.

Another KLM airline ground staff member explained that recently introduced regulations meant that all children - those aged under 18 – travelling to and from South Africa must have a full unabridged birth certificate on their person. No birth certificate, no travel.

The new law, introduced in June this year, is aimed at curtailing child trafficking.

There was another lad of Ollie’s age, a South African, travelling on his own. He had been studying in Holland and was returning home. He didn’t have his birth certificate either.

The new regulations came as complete news to us. Nothing was flagged up to us when we booked our tickets, or checked in online. We'd travelled to South Africa before with the children with no issues.

But there we were in the departure lounge faced with leaving Ollie behind - not an option; flying back to Wales to get the certificate or somehow getting the exact document or a crystal clear photograph of the original, unabridged certificate before we were allowed to set off.

Meanwhile the minutes ticked past.

We called my wife Jo’s parents back home. Luckily they live close to us and were able to get to our house and find the certificate. They took a photo and emailed it to us.

The Schiphol officials in Amsterdam were satisfied that a photo was on its way but we were warned in no uncertain terms that the image may not be accepted in Johannesburg and we’d have to come straight home. Under the circumstances were we prepared to take the risk?

Hell yes!

We’d booked a modern VW Combi van and had as much of South Africa to explore in two weeks as we could. We had an auntie and two cousins we hadn’t seen for very many years to catch up with not to mention the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to discover.

The birth certificate worry compounded the usual flying nerves and made for a very interesting 10-plus hours in the air. Would it arrive, would the image be acceptable or would Ollie being refused entry we be forced to turn right around and return home after landing at Jo’burg Airport?

We chose to fly from Cardiff as KLM are a superb carrier which we have used in the past. For us Cardiff Airport is very convenient, accessible, efficient and comfortable. Parking nearby is a breeze and we had use of the executive lounge before we left. We’d checked in online and airport security although thorough is not heavy handed and the staff are friendly and polite.

The transfer between planes at Schiphol was trouble free and the ultra-modern airport, which appears to be in the middle of a refurbishment, was easy to use and the shops and other facilities are brilliant.

Notwithstanding the kerfuffle over the birth certificate boarding the packed Boeing aircraft and finding our pre booked seats was a doddle.

It’s a while since we’ve flown inter-continental and new planes are something to behold. Each, for example, has its own eye-level, multi-media touch screen in the back of seat in front offering an array of all sorts of films, games, music and a host of other features.

It’s a little bit eerie as sitting in my seat I could see perhaps two dozen other screens showing an array of films, games and TV shows. The young mum to the right in front of me was engrossed in Fifty Shades Shades of Grey.

The flight, although long, was very enjoyable. The charming onboard crew worked their socks off attending to the travellers’ every need. Handing out head phones, pouring complimentary drinks, snacks and the meals.

Flight over, the final hurdle was passport control.

The photograph of the birth certificate had been emailed to all of us, in case it didn't arrive to one account and once inside the airport we were able to access wifi to make sure it has arrived. The image of the birth certificate on the mobile was not great - it was clearer on the tablet. Would Ollie be refused entry and the Barnes family sent right back to Wales or would we get through and meet up with the relations who were all waiting in arrivals?

The passport and ‘virtual’ birth certificate, displayed on phone and tablet screen, was dutifully and ceremoniously thrust under the passport control official’s nose.

He scrutinised Ollie, looked down at the passport screwed his eyes up at the screen - quite theatrically I thought - and with a huge smile thumped his rubber stamp on to the pristine passport page, saying: “Welcome to Johannesburg, Oliver. Now you make sure you have a really great time in my country.”