Irish airline Ryanair has been forced to stop running a controversial campaign that advertises cheap flights amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The low-cost carrier, which is headquartered in Dublin, caused controversy with its “Jab and Go” campaign in late 2020 after it first debuted the ads.
“Vaccines are coming, so book your Easter and summer holidays today with Ryanair,” a voiceover announced in one of the campaign’s commercials.
“One million seats on sale from 19.99 (pounds, $A35.44) to sunshine destinations in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, and many more, so you could ‘Jab & Go’.”
Other advertisements from the “Jab & Go” campaign featured a photo of a syringe and a little vial labelled with the word “vaccine.”
“Summer in Portugal. Vaccines are coming”, another ad announces.
The UK has started a nationwide program that aims to have all adults vaccinated against COVID-19 by September.
But with England in the midst of a brutal third lockdown in response to a highly transmissible local variant, the ad sat uncomfortably with many viewers.
Earlier this month the Advertising Standards Authority of the United Kingdom (ASA) confirmed to Fox News the had had attracted about 1600 complaints.
Critics claimed the campaign “misleadingly suggests that the vaccine will have been successfully rolled out across the population by spring/summer and that travel restrictions won’t apply by then,” and also that it was “offensive and irresponsible as, in their view, it trivialises the effect of the pandemic on individuals and society.”
Earlier this week, the ASA upheld the complaints, ordering Ryanair to pull the campaign on the grounds that it “consumers would interpret the phrase ‘vax and go’/‘jab and go’ as an unequivocal endorsement of vaccinating and travelling unconditionally”.
Ryanair said it would comply with the decision, even though the ruling was “baseless”.
“The ASA’s ruling flies in the face of the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, however even though this ruling is baseless, Ryanair will comply with it and the Jab and Go adverts will not run again,” wrote Ryanair in response to the ASA, in a statement shared with The Independent.
A representative for Ryanair was not immediately available to comment for Fox News.
However, in a previous statement issued in early January, the airline had defended its “Jab & Go” campaign as “factually accurate,” arguing that vaccines would “enable passengers to book much needed sunshine breaks” as early as Easter.
“Some critics wish to complain just for the sake of getting noticed when it is clear that vaccines will mean an end to Covid travel restrictions in mid-2021,” the airline added.
Critics of the campaign took to social media to share their objections to the ads.
“Surely I can’t be the only one who dislikes the Ryanair advert. I think ‘Jab&Go’ misses the mark a bit. Is it just me?” wrote one Twitter user.
“I know Ryanair are no strangers to controversy and indeed thrive on it, but this ‘jab and go’ advert feels a bit distasteful,” another user wrote.
Another complained that the ad seemed “surreal,” with others even comparing it to something out of an episode of the dystopian sci-fi series Black Mirror.
A version of this article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission