The ads came up for question after a number of complainants, including a consultant in energy, transport and sustainable development, raised concerns. They stated that by their nature, airlines do not have low emissions and challenged whether the claims 'Europe's.... Lowest Emissions Airline' and 'low CO2 emissions. Based on the top 27 European airlines' could be substantiated.
In its defence, Ryanair said the metric it used to measure CO2 emissions was grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer and its airline had performed the strongest against four other major European airlines.
Further, it claimed that the ads had clearly explained the basis of the comparison and argued that the 'low CO2 emissions' statement meant 'less than average.'
Despite this, the ad watchdog said, while it considered that the claims in the ads would be understood relatively and it was satisfied that CO2 per passenger distance was an appropriate method to compare the carbon footprint of passengers - it did not agree that the points were made clear in the ads.
Further, it felt the evidence provided was insufficient to demonstrate that Ryanair was the lowest carbon-emitting airline on the basis of that metric.
The ASA therefore decided that the claims were misleading and told Ryanair that the ads must not appear again in that current form. It warned the airline to ensure when making environmental claims to hold adequate evidence to substantiate them and make them clear.