Boeing bitten by UK advertising watchdog over CO2 claims in a national press ad for 747-8 Intercontinental
Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Wed 28 Nov 2007 – The UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has upheld a complaint made against Boeing UK over an advertisement in the national press that claimed the 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft, due to enter service in 2010, produced less than 75 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre.
The ASA said the claim was misleading in that it required a 100% occupancy of the plane to achieve this figure, whereas the UK government used a load factor of 79.7% in its carbon emissions calculations. It accepted Boeing’s defence that the use of a 100% load factor was standard practice in advertisements aimed at members of the aviation industry but as it was aimed at the general public, a qualification should have been made.
Boeing told the ASA that the 747-8 was not yet in service and there were many unknown factors that could affect the CO2 per passenger km and explained it had used a conservative approach in calculating the figure that took into account not just the number of passengers but also luggage, catering, seats, and flight and cabin crew. Boeing said the primary factor in determining the amount of fuel burn was the weight of the aircraft and that passenger weight was a relatively small contributing factor. They pointed out the figure they had calculated was lower than the one advertised and, therefore, they had provided a good margin.
Boeing said the advertisement had been prepared to counter a similar ad from Airbus at a time when they had both been in competition for a British Airways’ contract and it was comparing on a like-for-like basis with the Airbus A380. Boeing believed that Airbus too was claiming a 75g of CO2 per passenger km based on a 100% occupancy.
Unfortunately for Boeing, presumably no-one made a similar complaint to the ASA against Airbus. The European manufacturer had also based its claims on a 100% occupancy of 525 seats. However, Singapore Airlines, the first airline in service with the A380, had just 471 seats across three cabin classes on its maiden flight. Emirates and Qantas plan to operate the super-jumbo with around 489 and 450 seats respectively. Although the A380 can fly up to 853 economy passengers, Airbus expects 525 seats to be the average.
Two other challenges to the advertisement by the complainant were, however, not upheld.
The first, that the advertisement did not make clear which passenger class was being used in the calculation and that the amount of CO2 attributable to passengers in different classes was not the same, was dismissed on the grounds that most readers would understand that the calculation would be based on an airline industry average class configuration.
The complaint that the advertisement would mislead readers to underestimate their likely contribution of CO2 emissions from long haul flights to global warming was also rejected. The ASA said that “most readers would understand from the ad that Boeing were committed to building ‘cleaner’ aircraft and would not believe that the ad was providing a statement on the likely contribution to global warming of their CO2 emissions from flights.”
Boeing told the ASA that it was “already taking action to ensure their future advertising contained a suitable qualification in regards to assumed occupancy of the aircraft.”