Austrian Airlines Sustainability Advertising Ruled To Be Misleading

  • Austrian-Launches-LAX-2

    Austrian Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Vienna International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Airline Group:
    Lufthansa Group

    Annette Mann


Airlines (and the UK government) have increasingly been advertising the potential for low-carbon and “guilt-free” flying. However, the Austrian Advertising Council (AAC) has now ruled that Austrian Airlines’ recent campaign offering ‘carbon-neutral’ flights from Vienna to Venice for the Biennale art fair was, in fact, misleading.

The Lufthansa Group airline stated it was using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the flights, which is impossible given today’s regulations. Even if the airline had been able to get its hands on the amount of sustainable fuel needed, modern aircraft are only certified to operate on 50% SAF, and of course, commercial flights operating on a SAF blend use far, far less.


Austrian Airlines defended its campaign by saying it was enabling customers to contribute to the airline’s investment in sustainable aviation fuel to the equivalent of the amount of fuel needed to offset 100% of the conventional jet fuel associated with a ticket. However, the ACC was not convinced. The decision statement read,

“In times when sustainability and climate protection are given special attention by the population, transparent, clear and sensitive communication is particularly needed. Since the subject could be misleading with regard to climate-neutral flying, but is not (yet) possible, a more sensitive design and, above all, more precise formulation regarding the advertising subject is recommended.”

Misleading information, claimant states

The ACC also reprimanded Austrian for not disclosing what type of SAF it was using. The complaint against the carrier’s campaign was launched by Eric Stam, a lecturer at Rotterdam The Hague Airport College. He argued that as Austrian uses biogenic fuel that is in itself not CO2 neutral, it was trying to overcompensate the offsetting and fooling customers with an accounting trick. Stam stated,

“The advertisement suggests that SAF itself is carbon-neutral and the words ‘100% SAF’ implies that only SAFs are used for the flight. That is why I argued that the term Sustainable Aviation Fuel is not sufficient here: the consumer has the right to know what fuel it is and what net CO2 reduction is possible with it. It is very misleading to suggest that CO2-neutral flying is possible by means of fossil fuel substitutes like the ones used by Austrian Airlines.”

Austrian Airlines says it provides extensive information on SAF on its website. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Not suggesting SAF is a silver bullet

Simple Flying reached out to Austrian for their side of the story. The airline says it has taken note of the decision of the ACC to be more sensitive when advertising in the future, but that the Lufthansa Group offers individual customers to make their own journey CO2-neutral and offer extensive information on this through the booking process. Furthermore, a spokesperson added,

Information on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the savings potential and how it is possible to fly 100% CO2-neutral is available in detail on the website attached to the advertising motif. However, Austrian Airlines does not suggest that the purchase of SAF would immediately eliminate all climate problems caused by aviation, as claimed by the complainant. We are well aware of the responsibility that aviation bears for man-made climate change and its containment, and we actively draw our customers’ attention to this challenge with advertising measures such as the one at issue in the complaint.”

What is your take on airlines and others using the term “CO2 neutral” for marketing flights? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Source: Stay Grounded, edie

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