Ryanair misled consumers on low emissions, says UK advert regulator

Airline ‘disappointed and surprised’ given it ‘fully complied’ with regulations

A claim in a Ryanair advertisement that it is "Europe's . . . lowest emissions airline" was found to be misleading by the UK's advertising regulator.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint made against an ad in newspapers first publicised in September 2019 which featured text stating that Ryanair is "Europe's lowest fares, lowest emissions airline". Similar ads ran on TV and radio claiming that Ryanair is a "low CO2 emissions airline".

Complainants challenged the claims on the basis that they believed airlines did not have low emissions by their nature.

Ryanair said their ad clearly explained the basis of comparison and said factors which led to their superior performance were their young fleet of aircraft, direct flights, fewer empty seats per plane, and more seats per plane than other carriers. All three ads directed consumers to the environmental page on their website to allow them review and verify the claim.


Clarifying claims

But the ASA said it was concerned the basis of Ryanair’s claims had not been made clear in its ads and that the evidence provided was insufficient to demonstrate that Ryanair was the lowest carbon-emitting airline.

The regulator did say, however, that it was satisfied that the metric Ryanair uses to promote its green credentials, CO2 per passenger distance, was an appropriate method to compare the carbon footprint of passengers on different airlines. It added that, because the calculation relied on factors such as seating density, consumers needed that information to understand the basis of the claim.

As a result of breaching the UK’s advertising code, known as the CAP code, Ryanair was ordered not to run the ads again in the forms against which complaints were received. “We told Ryanair Ltd to ensure that when making environmental claims, they held adequate evidence to substantiate them and to ensure that the basis of those claims were made clear,” the ASA said.

Providing documentation

“Ryanair is both disappointed and surprised that the ASA has issued this ruling given that Ryanair fully complied with advertising regulations, engaging with regulators and providing documentation that fulfilled all the substantiations needed,” a spokesman told The Irish Times.

“For this environmental campaign, Ryanair provided the appropriate regulatory and approval bodies with all the information requested . . . These bodies then approved Ryanair’s campaign – based not only on their standard regulatory rules, but also on external recommendations from environmental experts,” he added.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business