Airline adverts banned over misleading environmental claims

Lines of jet aircraft parked on the tarmac. Air travel and air traffic.
Photo Credit: Ekky Wicaksono via Pexels

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned the advertisements of three major airlines on the grounds that they misled consumers with respect to the airlines environmental impact.

The finding relates to advertisements which appeared on Google ads earlier this year.

Three Airlines – Google Ads


The consumer watchdog ASA found advertisements by three major airlines – Lufthansa, Air France, and Etihad Airways – were misleading.

The finding in each case was misleading wording, which led customers to believe that the airline in question was offering a more sustainable and environmentally friendly method of air travel, which was not entirely true.

Lufthansa

In the case of Lufthansa, the phrase “fly more sustainably” came under scrutiny.

Lufthansa have recently released a “Green Fares” travel option for European flights and a more recently for a limited range of 12 longer flights, as reported by AviationSource last week.

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A Lufthansa jet in flight above mountains.
Photo Credit: Lufthansa

These specific services operate on a blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which will result in a 10% reduction of in-flight CO2 emissions, while the remaining 90% is offset through certified climate protection projects.

This however is not the case for the broader range of their scheduled flight offerings, which presently continue to operate on standard aviation fuel.

The ASA conceded that the Green Fares option might decrease some of the negative environmental impacts of flying, however they ruled that the wording of the ad made this unclear.

Lufthansa has now told the BBC that it has elected to remove the phrasing “fly more sustainably” from future advertisements.

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways had made the claim that the services it provided included “environmental advocacy”, with the ASA finding that it had “not seen any evidence that they were engaged in such advocacy”.

In that respect, the carrier’s advertisement wording breached the Code. Etihad have similarly moved to remove the subject phrase from future advertising.

An Etihad airliner operating on SAF takes off.
Image Credit: Etihad Airways

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Air France

The Air France advertisement was challenged by the ASA after it urged consumers to “travel better and sustainably”.

Once again, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the wording of the advertisement similarly gave consumers a misleading impression of the actual environmental impact which the airline’s operations had.

Air France-KLM did not provide comment to the ASA on the ruling. All three airlines have now removed the advertising in question from Google.

The new Air France Airbus A350 at the terminal.
Photo Credit: Air France

The Other Side of the Coin


On balance, it should be noted that each of the airlines in question have sustainability and ‘green’ initiatives in place.

These typically range from fleet modernization programs which will see the steady induction of more fuel efficient aircraft capable of greener operation, the progressive uptake of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) blends, and the move to a greater operational awareness of environmental issues.

Amongst their range of sustainability initiatives, Etihad Airways partnered with Cepsa, a Mubadala group company, to accelerate the decarbonization of air transport by researching and producing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

Lufthansa Group continues with growing initiatives such as the “Green Option” flights, and the steady move towards increased uptake of SAF.

This year has seen Air France restructure its leadership team to proactively address the question of sustainable practices in aviation. At the time, the CEO of Air France-KLM, Benjamin Smith, commented on these changes, relevantly observing:

“Decarbonization and our ability to drive our business in a more sustainable way are among the most strategic challenges our Group has to tackle”.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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