Adverts by Air France, Lufthansa and Etihad have banned by advertising watchdogs who ruled they’d misled consumers about their environmental credentials.
All three adverts featured on Google in July 2023. Air France claimed in its advert that it is ‘committed to protecting the environment’. Lufthansa said it offered customers a chance to ‘fly more sustainably’ while Etihad promised ‘environmental advocacy’.
The Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation into the adverts and concluded that all three had made misleading claims about their sustainability and environmental commitments.
In rulings published on 6 December, the ASA said that Air France ‘did not provide a substantive response’ to its enquiries. Etihad removed all ‘environmental advocacy’ claims from its advertising immediately after receiving the ASA complaint, and Lufthansa said it has removed its ‘Fly more sustainably’ message from future ads.
The German airline said its ‘Fly more sustainably’ claim was a reference to its ‘Green Fares’ option, which passengers could select on European flights that use sustainable aviation fuel, cutting emissions by 20%, and they could offset remaining emissions with a contribution to climate protection projects.
However, the ASA said that it understood ‘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 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’.
Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: “Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their travel plans, but deceptive claims by some holiday firms and airlines can make it impossible for them to make informed decisions before booking.
“It is encouraging to see the ASA taking such decisive action against adverts with environmental claims that could mislead consumers, as this can be an unfair commercial practice,” he said. “Travel companies must clean up their act and stop taking advantage of their customers’ desire to reduce the impact of travel on the environment.”