Now BA is hauled up over misleading Amex card ads

BA_1Not only is British Airways suffering a Covid-19 nightmare, with its share price in freefall and thousands of flights cancelled, now its advertising has been downed by the ad watchdog after the airline was found guilty of making misleading claims over a two-for-one flight offer.

The campaign dates back to December last year – when BA was flying high – and promoted the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card on its website and on radio.

The website ad offered customers two-for-one travel with a “Companion Voucher “once they had spent £10,000 each membership year on the co-branded card. It insisted customers could take a friend with them in the same flight and cabin when they redeemed their Avios points for a BA reward flight. It concluded: “Taxes, fees and carrier charges apply.”

Meanwhile, the radio ad featured a “customer” who had already taken advantage of the offer. They enthused: “Ah, what’s better than being at one with nature? How about being at two with nature? Get a two-for-one Companion Voucher valid for two years when you spend £10,000 each year on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card…Annual fee applies…Terms, taxes, fees and carrier charges apply”.

However, one complainant, who believed that the Companion Voucher did not offer two flight tickets for the price of one, challenged whether the claim in both ads was misleading because of the hidden costs involved.

In their defence to Advertising Standards Authority enquiries, BA and Amex submitted a joint response. They reckoned that everything was prominently outlined in the “Terms, taxes, fees and carrier charges apply” disclaimer.

But the ASA was having none of it. It ruled: “We considered that consumers would understand the claim 2-for-1 in both ads to mean that if they were to spend £10,000 on the card over a 12-month period, they would qualify for a Companion Voucher which allowed two people to travel to their chosen destination via two British Airways reward flight tickets for the price of one ticket.

“However, we understood that the 2-for-1 claim related only to the fare cost and not any added taxes, fees or carrier charges. It was therefore not possible for consumers to obtain two tickets for the amount it would cost them for one ticket.

“While we noted the words ‘taxes, fees and carrier charges apply’ in both ads, we did not consider that to override the impression that customers were able purchase two tickets and travel to their chosen destination for the price of one.”

Banning the ads for being misleading, the watchdog ruled they must not appear again in their current form and warned both BA and Amex over their future conduct.

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