Britain’s advertising watchdog has banned Etihad Airways from creating ads that give a misleading impression about the environmental impact of flying with the Abu Dhabi-based airline because they exaggerated Etiahd’s green credentials.
The warning was issued after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a ‘greenwashing’ complaint made by members of the public about two Facebook ads that Etihad ran last October.
One of the ads boasted that Etihad was “taking a louder, bolder approach to sustainable aviation”, while a second ad claimed Etihad had been bestowed an award as ‘Environmental Airline of the Year for 2022’.
Etihad has run a massive international marketing campaign under its ‘sustainable aviation’ tagline, which reassures passengers that “NetZero is closer than you think”. As part of its sustainability initiatives, Etihad has cut back on single-use plastics and is investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350.
In order to show off its green credentials, the airline has even adapted its iconic aircraft livery in a special green colourway that has been dubbed the ‘Greenliner’.
Defending the ads, Etihad told the ASA that they weren’t “intended to be understood as an absolute solution to the environmental impact from aviation” and the airline said it didn’t think passengers could be confused by its messaging.
In fact, Etihad argued that its ‘sustainable aviation’ messaging was “widely understood as a long-term and multi-faceted process” in which Etihad only has an “aspiration” to reach net zero by 2050.
The ASA dismissed the notion that the general public might understand the complexity of that message from the short ads Etihad posted on Facebook.
While it acknowledged Etihad’s efforts so far to become more sustainable, the ASA noted that the airline industry still produced “high levels of CO2 and non-CO2 emissions which were making a substantial contribution to climate change”.
“Initiatives such as reducing single-use plastics and using more efficient aircraft were not adequate substantiation to evidence a ‘sustainable aviation’ claim,” the regulator ruled.
Last month, the ASA ticked off German flag carrier Lufthansa for a website that promoted ‘misleading’ environmental claims.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.