A carbon-neutral flight? Austrian Airlines guilty of greenwashing

A carbon-neutral flight? Austrian Airlines guilty of greenwashing
Credit: Belga

“Fly carbon-free with us”. Austrian Airlines has been convicted of misleading advertising, according to a groundbreaking ruling posted on Monday on the company's Twitter/X profile.

The court in Korneuburg, on the outskirts of Vienna, found that the subsidiary of the Lufthansa group had conveyed “a false impression” by marketing to customers the possibility of travelling to the Venice Biennale without polluting the planet.

The ruling, which does not include any financial penalties, was handed down in June but has only now been made public by virtue of a posting requirement. The news comes as worldwide issues of greenwashing increase as the communications of major companies or organisations seek to portray them in a responsible light.

With the use of “sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), carbon-neutral flights are now possible”, Austrian Airlines claimed in its 2022 advertising campaign. Yet these fuels emit CO2 when they are burned, with the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions taking place mainly during the production phase. They are also currently blended with paraffin of fossil origin.

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The consumer association behind the complaint (VKI) welcomed the decision, referring to a “first in Austria”, according to legal expert Barbara Bauer, interviewed by AFP.

In a statement, Austrian Airlines said it “takes note of the ruling” and promised to provide “clearer” information in future on the use of so-called sustainable fuels. The Austrian company had already been nailed in June for greenwashing by European consumer associations, alongside 16 other airlines.

They were accused of “implying that air transport could be sustainable, eco-responsible, and green”. The airline sector is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions. It is under rising pressure to reduce its carbon footprint.

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