Regulator bans airlines’ ads over ‘misleading’ environmental claims

The UK’s advertising regulator has banned the ads of three airlines over “misleading” environmental claims.

Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad have all had their adverts banned due to the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) concerns the airlines have misled customers about the environmental impact of air travel.

The Google ads, all seen in July, stated that Air France was “committed to protecting the environment” and urged consumers to “travel better and sustainably”, while Lufthansa suggested that its customers would “fly more sustainably”, according to the Press Association. Etihad’s ad claimed its service included “environmental advocacy”.

The ASA said Air France did not provide it with a “substantive response” to its investigations. Lufthansa said the “fly more sustainably” claim was a reference to its Green Fares option, which passengers could select on European flights and reduced 20 per cent of flight-related CO2 emissions by using sustainable aviation fuel and offsetting the remaining 80 per cent with a contribution to climate protection projects.

Upon receiving notification of the complaint, Etihad removed all references to “environmental advocacy” from its ads in the UK.

The UK regulator said: “In the absence of any evidence demonstrating that Air France were protecting the environment and making aviation sustainable, we concluded that the claims gave consumers a misleading impression of the impact that travelling with Air France would have on the environment.”

It added that while flying with Lufthansa’s Green Fares option “might decrease some of the negative environmental impact of flying” with the airline, “we considered that the basis for the claim ‘fly more sustainably’ had not been made clear in the ad”.

And while the regulator welcomed Etihad’s decision to pull its reference to “environmental advocacy”, the ASA said it had “not seen any evidence that they were engaged in such advocacy”.

“We therefore concluded that the ad gave a misleading impression of Etihad’s environmental impact, and that the ad breached the Code”.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, welcomed the ASA’s decision to ban the ads. He said: “Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their travel plans, but deceptive claims by some holiday firms and airlines can make it impossible for them to make informed decisions before booking.

“It is encouraging to see the ASA taking such decisive action against adverts with environmental claims that could mislead consumers, as this can be an unfair commercial practice.

“Travel companies must clean up their act and stop taking advantage of their customers’ desire to reduce the impact of travel on the environment.”

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