Austrian Airlines was found guilty of misleading travelers in an advertising campaign that suggested its flights used 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). A court ruled that the carrier post a corrective statement on its website and social media channels.
According to the Austrian Consumer Information Association (Der Verein für Konsumenteninformation, VKI), who sued the airline, Austrian Airlines was advertising 100% SAF flights on its social media channels. The message was related to the then-upcoming Venice Biennale, a cultural exhibition hosted annually in Venice, Italy, with the carrier promoting its sustainable flights between Vienna Airport (VIE) and Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE).
“We at the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) saw this as misleading consumers – keyword greenwashing,” the association said in its statement.
The VKI filed a lawsuit for violating the Austrian Federal Act Against Unfair Competition (Bundesgesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb, UWG).
Citing one of its lawyers, the association added that it was not technically possible to fly with 100% SAF.
“But promoting flights as CO2-neutral when this is not technically possible is going too far,” Dr. Barbara Bauer, a lawyer at VKI, said.
“It cannot even be guaranteed that sustainable aviation fuel is used in the specific flight,” she added.
The Korneuburg Regional Court (Landesgericht Korneuburg) ruled that the advertising was misleading and that Austrian Airlines could have provided information “about the use of SAF in a form that would have conveyed a clear picture to the addressees.”
Meanwhile, Austrian Airlines was forced to release a public statement on its website and social media channels.
“[Austrian Airlines] is guilty of failing to give a false impression in its commercial advertisements that it offers CO2-neutral flights, and/or the use of 100% [SAF],” the statement read.
Several airlines have already been punished for misleading advertisements, with courts alleging that the carriers participated in greenwashing. In May 2023, for example, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) highlighted that both Lufthansa and Etihad Airways issued misleading statements about flying sustainably in 2022.
In February 2020, ASA also ruled that Ryanair’s claims of being Europe’s “lowest emissions airline” was “misleading”.