Ryanair (RYA.L) has been reprimanded by the UK’s advertising watchdog for “misleading” ads that encouraged reckless behaviour.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on Wednesday upheld two of three complaints about Ryanair’s ‘jab and go’ TV adverts. In them, Ryanair suggested the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines would allow people to go on holiday over Easter and Summer 2021. The ads encouraged people to book flights with the airline.
The ASA concluded the adverts were “misleading”, as there was no certainty that people would be vaccinated by then, nor that travel restrictions would be fully lifted.
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The watchdog also said the ads could “encourage people to behave irresponsibly once vaccinated” by giving the impression that the public could do what they wanted once they had been inoculated.
This “could expose them to the risk of serious illness, and in the longer term might result in them spreading the virus,” the ASA said.
“Consumers could easily be confused or uncertain about the situation at any given time and how it might develop throughout 2021,” the ASA said in its ruling.
“It was therefore important that advertisers were cautious when linking developments in the UK’s response to the pandemic to specific timeframes around which life might return to some level of normality, particularly when linking it to how confident consumers could be when making purchasing decisions.”
Ryanair has be told to stop running the adverts.
Ryanair called the ASA’s ruling “baseless” and said it “respectfully disagrees” but agreed to stop running the adverts.
“The ASA’s ruling flies in the face of the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, however even though this ruling is baseless, Ryanair will comply with it and the Jab & Go adverts will not run again,” a spokesperson said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and linked travel restrictions have had a huge impact on the travel industry, forcing airlines and holiday operators to restructure, lay off staff, and raise billions in emergency funding.
Earlier this week Ryanair said it lost €306m (£270m, $368) in the three months to 31 December. Passenger numbers were down 78% in the period and were even worse in January, down 88%.
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