ASA: no proof third runway would not increase noise or pollution

An interesting turn of events: last year Future Heathrow paid for an advert claiming that a third runway would not increase pollution or noise. Fast forward several months, and the Advertising Standards Agency has just ruled the advert misleading. Naughty naughty!

The normally placid ASA "noted Future Heathrow and BAA firmly believed that the noise and air limits would not be breached, but considered that the evidence we had seen was not sufficient to justify an absolute claim that noise and pollution would not increase following the construction of a third runway." Given that this evidence came from BAA and the Government, they're basically saying that the Department for Airport Expansion and its Ministers were lying.

I feel strangely vindicated, because around about the same time four colleagues and I were prancing about on the roof of Parliament, trying to say exactly the same thing. Sadly we got convicted and fined, while Future Heathrow was merely told not to run the advert again. A bit late really, given that a) they ran it over a year ago and b) they'll just get a new advert made, but I suppose it's the thought that counts.

Advertising Standards Agency to rule on Airbus's 'green' adverts


Last week I foolishly lashed out at Mandelson, Airbus, and anyone within reach, annoyed that tax-payers' money was to be spent propping up Airbus while the Vesta workers got handed P45s. Turns out I was wrong. Airbus is one of the good guys, or so their advert in the National Geographic claims.

There's no need to worry about aviation's emissions, because "Airbus sees the bigger picture, and works to minimize environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering fuel consumption, and creating quieter, more efficient aircraft." Doesn't it sound lovely? Hold on a second: reducing greenhouse gas emissions? How on earth does an aircraft do that? Does it suck up and capture the carbon as it flies, like a giant carbon-hoover with wings?

Oddly enough Airbus are simply lying: their emissions, and the emissions of any company which uses their aircraft, are increasing. In fact the whole industry's emissions are increasing, because they keep getting more and more people to fly - partly because misleading adverts like this, with cute chameleons on them, tell people that flying's OK really, because it's like green and stuff.

But the Advertising Standards Agency has woken from its slumber and agreed to make a ruling (after some not inconsiderable persuasion by a colleague). I'm not holding out too much hope - the ASA is as toothless as a new-born - but it's about time someone did something about ridiculous greenwash adverts. Ideally something involving a tin of paint and some creative 'touch ups', but anything would do.

Ryanair - yawn - naughty website hijinks


Ryanair V sign

If it's Wednesday, it must be time for a story about Ryanair. Today's thrilling tale involves Ryanair and the Office of Fair Trading, who have demanded they take their website down and remove misleading prices from it.

Of course, Ryanair don't see it that way. A spokesman told the Times: "Our software was designed to cope with 50 million passengers a year and we have reached that, so we are introducing a new site capable of handling more." Not so, says the OFT. "They were given until the end of February to make the changes and they are now shutting down to make sure they comply."

I suppose it must be fun to work in Ryanair's PR department. It's got to be one of the last jobs where you get to tell blatant fibs for a living. Oh well, perhaps the £20 million in lost sales will make up for it.

BA blackmails former staff for Heathrow support

BA planes

Sometimes you read an article which is truly shocking. This, dear readers, is one of them. British Airways has been sending leaflets to retired staff, claiming that their pensions are at risk if the third runway doesn't get the green light.

The leaflet urges former employees to write to Ruth Kelly in support of expansion, claiming that their pensions depend upon Heathrow's expansion. A quote in large print from Sigrid Mapp, chairman of the Liason council, which represents retired staff, says: "As pensioners, the security of our pensions depends directly on the longterm success of British Airways and that again depends on the success of Heathrow."

BA have already been rebuked by the Advertising Standards Agency for making false claims about the environmental impact of the third runway in a letter to frequent flyers. Frankly, making nonsense claims to the biggest polluters pales into insignificance compared with blackmailing elderly people who've devoted their lives for your company. If this is how low the aviation industry is sinking, then the forces of opposition must be doing something right...

Yet another ASA ruling on Ryanair

Michael O'Leary sucked into an engine

Seems to happen once a week at the moment: wake up, turn on radio, hear that Ryanair have been scolded by the Advertising Standards Agency. This time it's for naughty adverts with a saucy young lady dressed as a schoolgirl.

Ryanair, ever the tireless defenders of free-speech and justice, have refused to abide by the ruling. A while ago, the boss of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) - Christopher Graham - told the Guardian "Ryanair has been given every opportunity to work with the ASA and get its advertising right. It faces the real threat of formal sanctions, which includes a referral to the Office of Fair Trading under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988."

Go on Christoper. Save me from writing any more blogs about Ryanair adverts. Frankly, it's getting very dull indeed.

ASA puts Willie in hot water

Willie Walsh

Outspoken British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has had his knuckles rapped for claiming that the third runway would reduce CO2 emissions.

The day after the consultation, Willie wrote to tens of thousands of members of BA's executive club, claiming that the third runway would save 330,000 tonnes of CO2 as less planes would need to stack in the skies above London, and urging them to write in support of expansion.

The Advertising Standards Agency wrote to Walsh, pointing out that the third runway would actually see 2.6 million tonnes more CO2, from the 220,000 extra flights each year, and ordered him to write a correction. Walsh has so far refused to say whether he will comply.

Airline websites mislead public

O'Leary cuddling a plane

Hot on the heels of the Advertising Standards Agency's ruling on Ryanair, the European Commission has found that at least 200 airlines' websites are "misleading" the public.

According to the Commission, common issues include prices on the home page that did not include taxes and charges, 'free' flights that were not free and compulsory purchase of insurance attached to an offer.

Ryanair could face advertising sanctions for "misleading the public"

Ryanair has now been warned it could face advertising sanctions for "misleading the public" and betraying consumer trust as well as bringing "advertising into disrepute."

The boss of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) - Christopher Graham - told the Guardian:

"Ryanair has been given every opportunity to work with the ASA and get its advertising right. It faces the real threat of formal sanctions, which includes a referral to the Office of Fair Trading under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988."