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Ryanair Permitted to Remain “Europe’s Number One Airline” Despite Consumer Objections

Regulators in the UK ruled that the budget carrier can continue to advertise itself as “Europe’s number one airline” despite consumer complaints that following a spate of cancellations, the claim is dishonest.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has decided that although consumers may disagree, Ryanair is technically correct in referring to itself as “Europe’s number one airline” in a new television, radio and print ad promotional campaign. The ASA says the ruling was prompted by more than a dozen complaints that the phrase used by the airline, “Discover why we’re Europe’s number one airline” and the tagline “EUROPE’s NO.1 AIRLINE” amounted to false advertising.

The ASA considered consumers were likely to understand the claim ‘Europe’s number one airline’ in each ad to mean that over a reasonable period before the ads were produced Ryanair had carried more passengers than any other European airline,” the regulatory agency concluded in its ruling without even a trace of irony. “While we acknowledged some of the complainants’ views of Ryanair were that it was not their personal number one airline due to the recent flight cancellations, we considered they would nevertheless still interpret the claim to be an objective statement about the number of passengers who had travelled on Ryanair flights compared to all other European airlines.”

The agency acknowledged that several of the complaints noted the likelihood that because of the airline’s well-documented mass cancellation of flights last year, RyanAir was unlikely to have carried more passengers in Europe than its competitors.  The ASA likewise dismissed this notion, ruling that the company was correct to use data from a specific time period prior to the cancellations to back up its claim.

Interestingly, Ryanair appears to have made no attempt to argue that their claim to be the “number one” airline was akin to a matter of opinion. The company had, in fact, even cited the data quantifying the claim right in the ads in question.

“Ryanair said the claim ‘Europe’s number one Airline’ was a statement of fact, supported by a third-party statistical report, and therefore not misleading,” the ASA noted in its decision. “They said the claim was based on the most recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) World Air Transport Statistics 2017 report for air travel in 2016, which found that Ryanair was the world’s largest airline for international flights and Europe’s largest airline for international and domestic flights combined. Ryanair said their recent cancellation of flights did not materially alter the fact. The cancellations affected less than 0.5% of their 129 million customers in 2017.”

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