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Airlines Come Under Fire for Misleading Sustainability Ads

  • Adverts from Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad were banned after being challenged over environmental claims that a watchdog described as misleading.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority criticized the lack of evidence supporting the airlines' environmental commitments.
  • The airlines committed to not running the ads again and maintained that they are focused on improving sustainability in the industry.

Adverts for Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad have been banned for giving consumers a misleading impression of the airlines’ environmental credentials.

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”.

Etihad’s ad claimed its service included “Environmental Advocacy”.

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

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% of flight-related CO2 emissions by using sustainable aviation fuel and offsetting the remaining 80% with a contribution to climate protection projects.

However, the airline added that it had decided to remove the sentence ‘Fly more sustainably’ from future ads.

Etihad said it had immediately removed all references to “Environmental advocacy” from its paid-for Google search ads in the UK upon receiving notification of the complaint.

The ASA said air travel produces high levels of both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions, which are making a substantial contribution to climate change.

It also understood that there are currently no initiatives or commercially viable technologies in operation within the aviation industry that would adequately substantiate absolute green claims, such as that Air France was “committed to protecting the environment” and helped people “travel better and sustainably”.

The watchdog 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 said 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”.

The ASA also welcomed Etihad’s decision to remove the phrase “Environmental advocacy” from future ads but 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.”

The ASA ruled that the three ads must not appear again.

An Etihad spokesman said: “Sustainability is a key priority for Etihad, which runs a comprehensive programme to address aviation decarbonisation, working to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment by investing billions into its fleet of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, research into sustainable aviation fuels, as well as carbon offsetting and reforestation through the Etihad Mangroves.

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“The airline will continue to take bold and innovative steps including partnering with aircraft and engine manufacturers, sustainable fuel suppliers, academia and innovators to make flying more sustainable than it would be without such steps.”

Lufthansa said: “We have taken note of the decision of the UK ASA. Lufthansa regrets that the Google advertisement in question lacked the explanation of the further basis for the statement ‘fly more sustainable’.

“For effective climate protection, the Lufthansa Group is focusing on accelerated fleet modernisation, the use of sustainable aviation fuel, the continuous optimisation of flight operations, and offers for its private travellers and corporate customers to make a flight or the transport of cargo more sustainable.”

By City A.M.

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