The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned a Ryanair ‘jab and go’ TV advert that encouraged customers to book flights after getting a COVID vaccine.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the campaign had become the third most complained about in history and risked discouraging viewers from following lockdown-style restrictions.
Ryanair responded by arguing that “important contextual factors” needed to be taking into account including the general awareness of the vaccination program and rules on international travel.
The advert showed younger people in their 20s and 30s enjoying holiday destinations but complainants said it implied most of the country’s population would be able to travel unaffected by summer 2021.
Others felt it trivialised the pandemic, which has now contributed to 100,000 deaths in the country.
“We, therefore, considered some viewers were likely to infer that by Easter and summer 2021 it would be possible for anyone to get vaccinated in order to go on a booked holiday, that maximal protection could be achieved immediately through one dose of the vaccine, and that restrictions around social distancing and mask wearing would not be necessary once individuals were vaccinated,” the ASA said in its ruling.
“We considered this could encourage vaccinated individuals to disregard or lessen their adherence to restrictions, which in the short term could expose them to the risk of serious illness, and in the longer term might result in them spreading the virus. As such we considered the ads could encourage people to behave irresponsibly once vaccinated. The ads must not be broadcast again.”
The news comes days after World of Aviation reported how Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary bullishly predicted Britons will be free to travel for the European summer season despite government advice suggesting the opposite.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, O’Leary said, “We are heartened by the fact that the UK is expecting to vaccinate all the over-50s by the end of March, Europe is probably running a couple of months behind that by the end of June.
“So we think once all those high risk groups have been vaccinated, then travel restrictions should be removed, particularly on short haul intra-European travel and we expect there to be a strong recovery of beach holidays and family beach holidays going to Europe this summer.”
The Ryanair executive also told BBC Radio 4 that the vaccine rollout across Europe will need to pick up some steam, and follow the UK’s efforts, if the travel and airline industries are to see widespread relief by the end of the summer.
He stated that the EU needs to “step up the slow pace” of its own rollout, having only currently vaccinated less than three in every 100 people in the EU population.
O’Leary’s comments flew in the face of politicians who have been advocating for residents to stay put for the summer season as the new, more aggressive strain of the coronavirus continues to run rampant through the continent.
UK Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi warned Britons that they should “absolutely” avoid making bookings for summer holidays outside of the country, while Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told party lawmakers that “no tourist travel should be taking place”, as her government touted even tougher border measures.
Meanwhile, Sweden has barred travel from neighbouring Norway in an attempt to stem the spread of new COVID-19 variants, and Belgium has banned non-essential travel.