Etihad Airways asked to remove ads in the UK

UAE’s national airline has been asked to remove ads running in the UK claiming it offers a sustainable method of flying.

The ruling by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) covers two paid-for Facebook ads seen in October 2022. One text stated: “We understand the impact flying has on the environment. That’s why we are taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation”.

The other ad included information about the airline cutting down on single-use plastic in its meal options, touting the credential, “Environmental Airline of the Year for 2022 in the Airline Excellence Awards.”

The ASA challenged whether the adverts’ claims were misleading because they exaggerated the environmental benefits of flying with Etihad.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways stated that the claim “sustainable aviation” was not intended to be understood as an absolute solution to the environmental impact of aviation and it did not accept that it would be interpreted in that way.

Etihad added that the claim would be widely understood as a long-term and multi-faceted process, in which Etihad had included an aspiration to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

The ASA said it noted that steps were being taken by Etihad to reduce the environmental impact of its service. But that there are “currently no initiatives or commercially viable technologies in operation within the aviation industry which would adequately substantiate an absolute green claim such as “sustainable aviation” as we considered consumers would interpret it in this context.”

The ruling, means the airline is barred from showing the advertisements in their current form again in the UK. It is part of a series of investigations by the advertising regulator into marketing campaigns promoting a company’s climate action.

The ASA and other European regulators are cracking down on so-called ‘greenwashing’ to protect consumers from unreliable claims of environmental sustainability.

In a statement highlighting its investments in fuel-efficient aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels research, Etihad Airways said it was “disappointed” by ASA’s decision. “Sustainability is a key priority for Etihad,” the company said.