Two bus stop posters features a poster showing an aeroplane and the caption "time to end aviation advertising"

Week of action against airline advertising takes off in style

Groups from Europe and beyond took part in a week of action to demand a ban on airline advertising and sponsorships.

Thirty activist groups from the Brandalism and Extinction Rebellion networks in cities including Lisbon, Berlin, Paris and London have replaced commercial billboard and bus stop adverts with their own posters critiquing the continued advertising for airports and flights.

Meanwhile, Adfree Cities has submitted a complaint to the ad watchdog over greenwashing ads promoting Luton airport expansion, and new research from Badvertising shows the high carbon cost of airline sponsorship.

‘Environmental limits’

Ads from Luton airport seen on the London Tube network in March and April 2024 promote the airport’s expansion from 18 million to 32 million passengers per year. The ads suggest the expansion will respect “environmental limits” set in the airport’s Green Controlled Growth Framework – but this Framework does not include emissions from flights, which make up more than 80% of the airport’s current climate impacts.

The UK government will make its decision on Luton Airport’s expansion in the upcoming months, with a key recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate expected on 10th May 2024. Given the political timing and potential influence of the ads, Adfree Cities and seven other environmental groups including Badvertising, Adfree Cities, Stay Grounded and climate charity Possible have reported the ads to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and asked that they suspend the adverts pending investigation.

Image shows two adverts for Luton airport. One in a London tube station and another seen in a magazine.

Ruling against a Lufthansa ad last March, that claimed to be “protecting the future”, the ASA stated its view that “there were currently no environmental initiatives or commercially viable technologies in the aviation industry” to substantiate such a green claim. With no current possibilities to decarbonise aviation at scale, the Climate Change Committee has said that to reduce the climate impacts of aviation, there can be no net airport expansion.

Week of action

Outdoor advertising sites across Europe have been repurposed by activist groups using artworks critical of aviation advertising.

Actions took place in Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Democratic Rep of the Congo, Mexico and the UK. Over 500 corproate advertising sites have been repurposed without permission by activists this weekend with their own poster artworks.

Check out some photos from the actions below. (All photos courtesy of the Brandalism network.)

The cost of aviation sponsorship

To coincide with the week of action, the Badvertising campaign released new research on the carbon emissions associated with aviation sponsorship of sport. Big airlines like British Airways and Qantas regularly sponsor sports teams and events as a way to launder their image, a tactic known as “sportswashing”.

According to the findings, every £1 spent on advertising and sponsorship by Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, RyanAir and Qantas leads to an associated increase in greenhouse gas emissions of between 42 and 71 kg CO2equivalent.

For instance, British Airways’s £3 million GBP deal with the England Rugby team from 2019 onwards leads to excess emissions of 147,000 tonnes of CO2e each year, whilst Lufthansa’s $4 million USD deal with the German Football Association could generate 136,000 tonnes of CO2e – that’s the equivalent emissions of the entire population of Berlin driving from Berlin to Hanover!

British Airways ad showing cabin crew simulating a rugby game.
An ad celebrating British Airways sponsorship of the England Rugby team. (Image: British Airways.)

End airline ads

The case to end airline ads is clear. Advertising agencies such as ‘Uncommon’ who work for British Airways promote flying with a superficial glamour and without reference to its climate impacts, whilst glitzty sponsorship deals normalise aviation and prevent more meaningful action to reduce emissions from the sector.

Find out more about how you can lobby your council for change using our resources and this toolkit on high carbon advertising to share with councillors.

More, you can sign our call to MPs in Westminster for a national high carbon ad ban that would introduce legislation just like we did with smoking to stop ads promoting polluting products and services.

A billboard poster shows a woman looking out of a plane window with a speech bubble reading "adverts are fuelling the climate crisis"

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