EasyJet threatens action over Ryanair “Pinocchio” ad

The rivalry between low-cost carriers Easyjet and Ryanair has escalated with the threat of legal action over an advertisement that likens easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou to Pinocchio.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou

The Ryanair ad features a doctored image of Sir Stelios with an elongated nose in the style of the children’s character, whose nose grows when he tells a lie.

The ad features a speech bubble with the line “punctuality is a top priority” coming from Sir Stelios’ mouth with the strapline “easyJet – Mr Late again”, a reference to Ryanair’s claim that easyJet has failed to publish punctuality statistics.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the Irish carrier, says he has received a letter from easyJet’s solicitors Schillings demanding an apology and damages, claiming the advert “caused ongoing and escalating damage to our client’s reputation”.

It is also emerged that easyJet has instructed its lawyers Herbert Smith to take legal action over a BBC interview when O’Leary referred to easyJet as a “high-fare airline”.

The lawyers are claiming malicious falsehood and defamation and demanding an apology, adding that the phrase is not in “accordance with the public image [that easyJet] cultivates and promotes as a low-cost, no-frills airline and [that easyJet] is thereby acting hypocritically and promoting a false public image”.

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