Sabena complaint halts Ryanair ads


A Brussels court has upheld a complaint by the Belgian airline Sabena against an advertising campaign by Ryanair and ordered the Irish carrier to discontinue its adverts immediately.

The Commercial Court held that the campaign was misleading and offensive to Sabena and that it affected the Belgian airline's good name.

Judge J.M. Lahaye, in his findings, ordered a full-page publication of the court order in four national newspapers and on Ryanair's website under the banner "Sabena versus Ryanair".

The publicity found by the court to be offensive referred to separate items carried in Belgian national newspapers on April 24th and 26th. The first featured Ryanair's chief executive, Mr Michael O'Leary, and three "collaborators" - Ryanair employees, one male and two female, wearing Ryanair sweaters or tee-shirts.

The advertisement carried the caption "Welcome Ryanair and its really lowest prices. Goodbye Sabena and its really expensive flights."

The advertisement on April 24th was carried in a number of newspapers. The one that appeared two days later, however, was published in only one, the influential Flemish daily, Hetlaatste Nieuws, which is circulated throughout Flanders.

Sabena found this advert "particularly offensive".

This was a picture of the famous "Manneke Pis" statue in Brussels, depicting a little boy urinating and underneath, in Dutch, the slogan "Kotsbeu?" In English, perhaps, the advertisement might be considered somewhat humorous, said Mr Remans, effectively saying "pissed off" (with Sabena's high fares), but in Dutch it said, in effect: "Are you so fed up you could puke?" (with Sabena's high tariffs).

Ryanair said it would comply with the court ruling that its advertising should include details of prices and comparative quality of services.