Eurowings

Eurowings Misled Customers with its Greenwashing Claims

On March 28th, “Deutsche Umwelthilfe” (DUH) achieved success against misleading sustainability advertising by the airline Eurowings.

The Cologne Regional Court in Germany fully upheld the complaint brought by the environmental and consumer protection organisation.

The court prohibited the airline from advertising flights whose emissions are offset with a few euros as “CO2-neutral” in the form in which they were advertised at the time the lawsuit was filed.

The court found that the forest protection projects used for the alleged offsetting of emissions are not suitable for achieving actual compensation: Forest projects cannot be operated for the same length of time as the CO2 emitted by the flight remains in the atmosphere.

Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson of the Stay Grounded network said, “Offsets are a licence to pollute. They legitimise business as usual, don’t work, and can lead to new injustices. The industry cannot buy itself out of the necessity to reduce flights. Greenwashing is a major obstacle to the changes that need to happen to counter climate collapse. The sad truth is that the only green plane is the one that stays on the ground.”

Jürgen Resch, Federal Managing Director of DUH said, “With its court ruling, the Cologne Regional Court has fully confirmed our legal opinion. An airline that pretends to offer its customers ‘CO2-neutral’ flights for a few euros more is acting in a highly misleading manner if it uses forest protection projects that are only secured for a few years. With this trickery, Eurowings is trying to divert attention from the climate-damaging nature of its business model. The compensation projects that supposedly protect the forest are not suitable for neutralising the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the flights.”

Eurowings uses an offsetting calculator to offer its passengers the opportunity to make their flights supposedly “CO2-neutral” by making a small financial contribution to forest protection and cooking stove projects. However, according to DUH’s conviction, which was fully shared by the court with regard to the forest protection projects, the projects listed are completely unsuitable for offsetting flight emissions and cannot ensure the promised compensation.

Background

Apart from Eurowings, also other airlines have been found guilty of greenwashing. On March 19th 2024, another court had ruled that the Dutch airline KLM misled customers with its green claims.

Already in 2020, KLM had been ordered to change advertisements that misleadingly implied up to a 50% usage of so called “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF), when in reality biofuel only accounted for 0.18% of the airline’s fuel use in 2019.

In 2023, after conducting an investigation into offsetting claims in the airline industry, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) accused Ryanair of using misleading sustainability claims.

In 2020, Ryanair already had an advert banned in the UK for claiming it was the UK’s lowest-emissions airline.

In 2022, Austrian Airlines was reprimanded by the Austrian Advertising Council for a misleading advertisement about “CO2-neutral” flying. An advert by Qatar Airways at the UEFA Euros 2020 football tournament suggested without any evidence that it could help passengers “Fly Greener”, prompting calls for the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to crack down on greenwashing.

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