Ryanair's Eurostar claims are misleading, says ads watchdog

Ryanair must stop using an advert which declared that its journey from London to Brussels was faster and cheaper than Eurostar's because it was misleading, the advertising watchdog has said.

The advert was headlined "Brussels faster and cheaper" and compared a one way Ryanair journey for £15 with a Eurostar one way journey for £27. It claimed that its journey took one hour and 10 minutes, whereas Eurostar's took two hours and 11 minutes.

Ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that the advert was misleading on both price and speed because it did not take into account the differences between a train and a plane journey.

Though the advert specified that Ryanair flew from Stansted outside London and not to Brussels but to Charleroi, the ASA said that it could mislead readers.

"Stansted airport and Charleroi airport were located approximately 40 km and 46 km from the centres of London and Brussels respectively, and that transfer times were approximately 45 minutes for the former and approximately one hour for the latter. We noted Eurostar terminals were located in the city centres," it said in its ruling.

"We considered that readers would not necessarily be aware of the location of the airports and the extra time they would have to factor in for the journey. We also considered that people would see the headline 'Brussels faster' as referring to the overall journey time from London to the centre of Brussels. We concluded that the claim was likely to mislead," it said.

The watchdog also said that, for similar reasons, the claim on costs was misleading because the cost of travelling to the airports from the city centre were not included, and that the trains had no such associated costs because their journey was to the city centre itself.

"We understood that travel from the airports to London and Brussels city centres would incur a minimum cost of approximately £8 for each transfer and therefore the journey cost would not necessarily be cheaper than by Eurostar, where the terminals were located in the city centres," it said.

"We considered that many readers would not be aware of the locations of the airports and the additional costs incurred. We considered that many would consider the 'Brussels... cheaper' claim to refer to the whole-journey cost from London to Brussels, and that the overall impression given by the ad was that that journey would always be substantially cheaper by Ryanair," said the ruling.

The ASA investigated the advert following complaints about the advert from Eurostar and from members of the public. It found that the advert erred when it said that Eurostar departed from St Pancras, which it will not do until later this year, and misrepresented Eurostar's punctuality by using an out of date statistic without undertaking any further research.

The ASA instructed Ryanair to remove the claims about speed, price and punctuality from any future adverts.