UK bans airline adverts over ‘misleading’ environmental claims

LONDON (Reuters) -Adverts from Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Etihad Airways were banned by Britain’s advertising regulator on Wednesday for giving a “misleading impression” of the airlines’ environmental impact.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ads had breached advertising rules, and “must not appear again in the form complained about.”

In the Google ads that were all seen in July, Lufthansa said people would “Fly more sustainably” with the airline. An Air France-KLM advert said it was “committed to protecting the environment” and helped people to “travel better and sustainably”.

Etihad Airways said consumers could explore the world with “Total Peace Of Mind,” while mentioning their “Environmental Advocacy”.

The ASA investigated all three ads over concerns that they gave a misleading impression of the airlines’ environmental impact.

“The CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code required that absolute environmental claims must be supported by a high level of substantiation,” the regulator said in the ruling for Etihad Airways and Air France-KLM.

The regulator also concluded that the Lufthansa ad gave a misleading impression of the airline’s environmental impact.

Lufthansa said its ad was created by the Google Ads service and was designed to highlight a “Green Fares” option which allows passengers to offset some of their CO2 emissions.

“We have taken note of the decision by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA),” Lufthansa said in a statement. “Lufthansa regrets that the Google ad in question failed to explain the further basis for the statement ‘fly more sustainable’.”

Air France said the advert in question was generated by an artificial intelligence tool, based on keywords entered. The airline said it was only visible online from the United Kingdom and only 80 people were exposed to it.

“As soon as the ASA decision was announced, Air France changed the parameters for creating online ads to ensure that such an event could not happen again,” Air France said in statement.

The ASA said Etihad Airways had removed the ad once it had been notified of the initial complaint.

When Etihad was approached for comment by Reuters on the watchdog’s ruling a spokesperson for the airline said “sustainablity was a key priority” and did not mention the ban.

It is not the first time that the British advertising regulator has ruled against an airline on environmental concerns.

In 2020, the ASA ruled that three Ryanair adverts which made claims it was “Europe’s Lowest Fares, Lowest Emissions Airline” and “low CO2 emissions airline,” were misleading.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman in London and Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Alexandra Hudson)