The television advertisement for Ryanair which ran in 2018 contained an on-screen claim:
“No. 1 for punctuality For verification see Ryanair.com/verifications”.
A complaint was received from Aer Lingus regarding the advertisement. They said the advertisers had used Dublin Airport figures and when calculated for the entire period 2013 – 2017, these figures showed an 80.9% score for Ryanair while Aer Lingus were ahead at 81.0%. The complainants forwarded a Dublin Airport Report, Airline Punctuality 2013 – 2017, which included a table of airlines and their departure punctuality.
They said that the advertisement was inaccurate and misleading and should not be used again.
Ryanair said they requested the punctuality from Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) for the previous five years from which they had calculated the average annual punctuality. They forwarded a Letter of Substantiation which stated confirmation of their ‘No 1 for Punctuality claim’ based on a table stating the punctuality figures (in percentages) for ten airlines for each year from 2013 – 2017, and an Average 5 years figure. (One airline only appeared in 2015 and 2016). The data in their table was based on departure times. The figures in their table for their punctuality and that of Aer Lingus were stated as:
Airline 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Avg 5 years Ryanair 84.5% 82.7% 82.1% 78.2% 78.8% 81.3% Aer Lingus 83.6% 81.7% 79.0% 82.0% 78.7% 81.0%
They also forwarded Dublin Airport reports for each of the five years, which included a table on “Departure Punctuality by Airline [for the year of the report] – Top 30”.
In commenting on the differences to the figures supplied by the complainant, Ryanair said they had built their “No. 1 for Punctuality” claim on the official annual report statistics provided by DAA and the most relevant statistic for punctuality was departure time, as arrival very much depended on the B-side airport which massively favoured long haul flights. They considered that Aer Lingus had produced DAA statistics which had different time periods than the annual report which they had used for statistical purposes.
The advertisers also said they did not plan to run the television advertisement in the future.
Analysis by the ASAI Executive of information provided by the advertisers:
The ASAI Executive extracted the Departure Punctuality figures by airline across the five years 2013 – 2017 from the Dublin Airport reports submitted by the advertisers into one table. They compared this information against the table provided in the advertisers’ letter of substantiation.
The findings based on this comparison were:
1. Not all airlines featured in each year, and that across the five years, 41 airlines featured.
2. In the summary based on all the Dublin reports, three airlines scored better than others however in two cases they were only represented in one year (2013 or 2014) and in the third, represented in two years (both 2013 and 2014). Of the three airlines, two no longer flew from Dublin and the third did not appear again in the Top 30.
3. In relation to one airline a punctuality figure of 78.8% was given in the advertisers Letter of Substantiation for 2013 but there was no listing in the 2013 Airport report submitted to ASAI by the advertisers. This meant that the average given over 5 years at 81.1% changed to 81.7% over four years. However, a similarly named airline which does not fly from Dublin was listed in the Airport report at 78.8% for 2013.
4. Another airline appeared in the Dublin Airport reports for all five years with an average over the five years of 84.4%, higher than the advertisers, but was not included in the advertisers’ Letter of Substantiation.
5. Another airline (1) appeared in 2016 and 2017 on the Dublin Airport reports, and had an average over the two years of 81.5%, higher than the advertisers, but were not included in the advertisers’ letter of substantiation.
6. A number of airlines with a Five Year Average punctuality score less than Ryanair’s featured in Dublin Airport reports, as while they were not in the top 30 each year, there were some years in which they were in the Top 30. Only one of these airlines featured in the advertisers’ letter of Substantiation and it had a lower score than these other airlines.
Further Comments from Advertisers: The advertisers responded to the ASAI Executive’s analysis and said their substantiation outlined the scope of the comparison (5 years, short-haul routes, airlines operating under their own brand) and outlined the source of the data as DAA’s published departures punctuality stats for the period 2013 – 2017. They said that comparable advertisements only compared like-with-like, so there was a very clear rationale why airlines with different business models (e.g. scheduled services under other airline brands) were excluded from the comparison.
In relation to point 4 (Further Information), they said that this airline was not included in their comparison as it operated scheduled services under other airline brands rather than its own. As the comparison should be a like for like, they excluded different operational models such as services provided airlines under different brands and long-haul.
Finally, the advertisers stated that the list of airlines was meant to compare Ryanair’s average punctuality over 5 years with the one of other airlines which operated short-haul flights from Dublin during the same period under comparable conditions. The list was not meant to list the airlines in order of punctuality, but only to show the difference between the Ryanair figures and other airlines’ figures.
(1) This airline is no longer in business but it was at the time of the publication of the advertisement.
Conclusion: Complaint Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ responses.
The Complaints Committee noted the information provided by the advertisers and the analysis carried out by the ASAI Executive. They noted that the advertisers had given details of 10 airlines in the Letter of Substantiation. They noted that the advertisers had based their claim on a five year average rather than on an individual year.
In assessing the analysis by the ASAI Executive and the advertisers’ basis of selection for their claim the Committee noted:
At point 2, that two of the airlines which scored higher than the advertisers no longer flew from Dublin. On this basis they did not consider it unreasonable that they were not selected in the advertisers’ basis for selection.
They noted that a further airline had featured in 2014 but not since. As it had only featured in the top 30 once, with a subsequent three year period where it did not appear, the Committee did not consider it unreasonable that it was not selected in the advertisers’ basis for selection.
At point 3, the Committee noted the apparent confusion.
At point 4, the Committee noted that an airline that had appeared in all five years, with a punctuality score of 84.4% had not been included in the advertisers’ Letter of Substantiation.
At point 5, the Committee noted that an airline which had appeared in 2016 and 2017 had an average of 81.5% but was not included in the advertisers’ Letter of Substantiation whereas at Point 6, another airline which had appeared in 2015 and 2016 with a score of 46.1% was included in the advertisers’ Letter of Substantiation.
The Committee noted that while the advertisers had indicated to consumers where they could access the advertisers’ basis for their punctuality claim, the advertising had not made it clear that it was an average claim over five years.
While the Committee noted the advertisers’ comments on why certain airlines had been excluded from the Letter of Substantiation, the Committee noted that it was not clear in the Letter of Substantiation on what basis the advertisers had excluded airlines from the Letter of Substantiation that had a higher punctuality score than they had.
They considered that comparisons should be on a like for like basis. They noted that the reports used to compile the Letter of substantiation reports had been for the Top 30 airlines consisting of airlines that operated short haul, mixed short and long haul, and long haul destinations. They considered that to make a like-for-like comparison on short haul punctuality, the underlying substantiation should be based only on short haul destination punctuality reports.
In the circumstances, the Complaints Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4 and 4.9 of the Code.
As there were no plans to air the advertisement again, no further action was required in the matter.