The ad follows recent reports of figures claiming that fewer EasyJet flights took off on time than flights run by Air Zimbabwe.
The use of Mugabe’s image is controversial as his 23-year-long presidency has been marked by sham elections, the murder and torture of political rivals and a huge decline in life expectancy and standard of living for the country’s population.
Today’s ad ran in The Guardian. A Guardian News & Media spokesperson says: “Guardian News & Media has a rigorous and thorough screening process to which all advertisements are subject. Any advertisement considered contentious is referred to our legal department as well as the Advertising Standards Authority prior to publication as standard practice.
“We are not aware of any complaints about today’s Ryanair advert but anyone who wishes to complain can contact the ASA in the usual way.”
The Advertising Standards Authority has not received complaints about this Ryanair ad so far but has had to rule on numerous Ryanair ads in the past.
In 2008, it reported Ryanair to the Office of Fair Trading, saying the airline persisted in running misleading ads. Ryanair took voluntary steps to clarify information on its website and in its ads following the ASA’s action.
Last week, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has apologised “unreservedly” to EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou over ads that Ryanair ran featuring Stelios as Pinocchio and suggesting he was lying about EasyJet’s punctuality.
Stelios had started libel action over the ad, which was settled out of court with Ryanair paying £50,100 in damages.
The two airlines both have a policy of running tactical ads with low-production values. In the past, the ads have tended to tie in to current events but more recently the airlines are using ad budget to criticise the rival management teams.
In response to the Mugabe ad, Sarah McIntyre, UK communications manager for EasyJet, said: “Perhaps Ryanair should get their own house in order before they criticise other people. You only have to look at how they dealt with the ash crisis. They’re still dealing with claims, when easyJet cleared its backlog weeks ago.”