Budget airline Ryanair has been ordered to remove an “irresponsible” advert depicting misleading claims about coronavirus vaccinations by the advertising watchdog.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had received 2,370 complaints about the advert – which was shown from December to January – making it the third most complained about of all time.
The advert encouraged consumers to book Easter and summer holidays with the airline after having received vaccinations, suggesting that people could “jab and go”.
Footage showed groups of people in their 20s and 30s enjoying the holiday destinations.
Complaints were made by people who felt “jab and go” implied that most of the UK population would be able to travel unaffected by coronavirus regulations by summer 2021.
Others felt that the advert trivialised ongoing restrictions and effects of the pandemic on society and individuals, and challenged whether it was offensive.
Ryanair said “important contextual factors” needed to be taken into account when considering the advert, including the general awareness of the public around the national vaccination programme and the constantly changing restrictions on international travel.
The company said it had made no specific claims about who, when or how vaccines would be administered, or how long it would take for people to become fully protected.
It added that it believed the Government’s “optimistic” briefings implied that a significant proportion of the population would be vaccinated midway through the year.
Ryanair said the advert had intended to be “uplifting” and encourage viewers to consider a “brighter future” when people could go on holiday with friends and family again.
It did not consider the content was insensitive to people who had had Covid-19 or who had lost people to the virus, or to those working on the front line of the pandemic.
But the ASA said that due to the “complex and constantly evolving” situation, consumers could be “confused or uncertain” and it was important that advertisers were “cautious”.
The watchdog said this applied especially to time frames with regard to life in the UK returning to “some level of normality”.
The ASA said that although some viewers may have found the tone of the advert “distasteful”, it was unlikely to have caused widespread offence.
It ordered that the advert in question must be removed by Ryanair.
The ASA ruling said: “We told Ryanair DAC to ensure their ads did not mislead viewers about the impact that Covid-19 vaccines would have on their ability to travel abroad during Easter and summer 2021, and to ensure their ads did not encourage irresponsible behaviour.”