Tuesday, August 06, 2013

U.K. Regulator Dismisses Airbus Complaint on Boeing Ads: WSJ

Updated August 6, 2013, 8:16 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint by European commercial aircraft builder Airbus that its U.S. rival Boeing Co. made misleading statements in an advertising campaign in trade publications in late 2012.

The decision represents a victory for Boeing in a long war of words between the two aircraft builders that are vying for supremacy in a market estimated to be worth some $4 trillion over the next 20 years. The duopoly has a history of feuding in the public domain that goes back more than two decades, with the aerospace giants trading claims and counterclaims about their planes.

The latest volley in the tit-for-tat battle stems from ads taken out by Boeing in aviation-industry publications late last year claiming that the newest model of its 747 jumbo jet is a lot cheaper in terms of trip cost for an airline than Airbus's double-decker A380 superjumbo.

In the ads, the Chicago-based company claimed that the 747-8 has a 26% advantage over the A380 when measured by the cost of a 6,000 nautical mile route. It also claimed that its 747-8 is 8% more efficient in terms of fuel consumption because the A380 is bigger and heavier.

Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.,  responded with a campaign showing a Boeing plane with an elongated nose and the catch line: "Why is our competitor stretching the truth?"—a clear reference to the story book character Pinocchio, whose nose grew longer with every fib he told.

In its ruling, the U.K. independent regulator for media advertising dismissed Airbus's claims, saying Boeing's ad comparing the 747-8 and the A380 "was not likely to mislead," because airline executives reading it were unlikely to make a purchase decision without extensive research into the performance data of the two aircraft, based on their own specific requirements. The ASA acknowledged that the Boeing ad summarized "only a few relevant performance characteristics, which should be interpreted in the context of the vast amount of technical and supporting documentation provided to airline purchasers."

In a statement, Boeing said it was "pleased that our advertisements underlining the advantages of buying Boeing products have been supported." Boeing spokesman Charlie Miller acknowledged that comparative advertising can be a useful tool. "Occasionally it is a good idea to publish comparative data that underscore the value of your products," he said.

John Leahy, Airbus's chief operating officer-customers, said in a statement that Boeing "continues trying to mislead the public by claiming a 'standard layout' that actually has never been sold or installed on any of their aircraft. Boeing should stop trying to mislead and acknowledge that the old 747 'reference' layouts have been overtaken by reality."

Airbus said that a fair comparison between the two big planes on the basis of fuel burn per seat "must take into account current cabin configurations and comfort levels actually operated by the airlines. Under these comparable conditions, the A380 demonstrates [on more than 150 daily flights] significant lower fuel burn per seat compared to the 747-8." Airbus contends that Boeing's argument doesn't take into account the much-higher seating capacity and greater passenger comfort of the A380 with 525 seats in a standard cabin layout, compared with the Boeing plane's 467 seats.

Matt Wilson, spokesman for the ASA, said Boeing has lodged a complaint with the authority regarding Airbus's Pinocchio ads. "We are formally investigating Boeing's complaint that the ads and the claims made by Airbus are misleading and denigratory," he said.

Source:  http://online.wsj.com