FTC orders ANA to pull misleading Premium Class ads
The Asahi Shimbun
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday ordered All Nippon Airways Co. to stop running its advertisements for a new high-end service following customer complaints that they never received the luxurious seating touted.
The newspaper and television advertisements said the new Premium Class service started on April 1 this year. They emphasized that the seats offer more legroom and are separated by partition panels for privacy. The seats also come with a reading light.
However, the airline did not start installing the seats until June. In fact, many seats in Premium Class are still the older ones, much to the chagrin of many customers who paid extra for the service.
The FTC said the advertisements violate the law against unjustifiable premiums and misleading representations.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism also issued a rare written instruction to the airline. A ministry official said the advertisements are undesirable from the viewpoint of customer protection.
"We deeply apologize for misleading our customers," said an official at ANA's public relations office.
ANA started the Premium Class service to compete against rival Japan Airlines Corp., which introduced a first-class service for domestic flights.
In the Premium Class service, which costs several thousand yen more than economy class, passengers get more comfortable seats, eat dishes cooked by first-class ryotei Japanese restaurants and can use airport lounges.
The advertisements showed actor Rentaro Mikuni falling asleep in comfort in a Premium Class seat.
In April, ANA operated 360 domestic flights a day. In 87 of those flights, ANA only slightly widened the spacing between the conventional luxury seats or changed their upholstery.
No changes were made on the remaining 273 flights.
In June, the new seats were introduced in one aircraft. Currently, they are installed in eight aircraft.
The small print in an advertisement on ANA's flight schedule booklet at the start of the Premium Class service read, "The change to the new seats will be made in stages."
However, the newspaper advertisements did not contain such an explanation.
ANA has received many complaints from customers who paid for the Premium Class service.
Some said the seats were different from those shown in the advertisements. Others said they did not get their money's worth.
ANA initially explained to the FTC that the advertisements only represent the "image" of the Premium Class service.
However, the airline has since modified all the advertisements for the new service.(IHT/Asahi: August 26,2008)