A promotion for a "Flight Simulator" experience, seen on www.groupon.co.uk, was headlined "Play: 30-Minutes in a Boeing 737 Flight Simulator £44". Further text stated "Helping dreams to take flight, Virtual Aerospace offers highfliers the chance to reach for the clouds with a flight simulator experience in a mock Boeing 737 NG ... more".
The complainant challenged whether the descriptor "flight simulator" was misleading, because he maintained the machines did not have a qualification from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and were not eligible for pilots to claim hours against in their flying log books. He therefore believed that the machines were fixed base training devices and not flight simulators.
Groupon said they understood that the term "fixed base training device" was the precise technical term used to describe the kind of simulator that they were promoting in the offer. They said, however, because Groupon was aimed at a wide range of consumers, many of whom would not be familiar with the complex range of flight simulator systems on the market, they chose to use the term "flight simulator" as they believed it was more consumer-friendly and clearly communicated what the deal consisted of.
They said they understood that the ASA considered ads from the point of view of the average consumer, and they believed that it was highly unlikely that the average consumer would understand what a "fixed base training device" was. In contrast, they considered that the term "flight simulator" was widely accepted and understood as a general, non-specific term, which could relate to a number of different systems from playable, computer-based models of aircraft systems, to more complex, motion platforms which moved in response to pilot control movements and other external factors.
Groupon noted that if they had used the term "fixed base training device" in their ad, then it would have implied that the simulator provided a training element on how to fly a plane, and would have misled consumers into thinking the simulator offered more than just a pleasure flight. They also highlighted that if more advanced fliers wanted to buy the deal, there was no indication in the deal that it provided any element of advanced training or equivalent pilot training.
The ASA noted the complainant's comments that the term "flight simulator" was misleading as Virtual Aerospace's machines did not have a qualification from the CAA and could not be used by pilots to claim hours in their training log books. We noted Groupon's assertion that the term "flight simulator" was generic and could be applied to a number of different aircraft systems. We also understood their belief that the average consumer would not understand what the term "fixed base training device" meant. We considered that the text "Play ..." and "Helping dreams to take flight, Virtual Aerospace offers highfliers the chance to reach for the clouds with a flight simulator experience in a mock Boeing 737 NG ...", which appeared in the ad, made it clear to consumers that the deal on offer was a pleasure flight for individuals with little or no experience of flying or flight simulator machines. We also noted that it was being marketed as a flight simulator "experience" which emphasised the fact it was a pleasure flight. We therefore considered that for the average consumer the distinction between "flight simulator" and "fixed based training device" was too technical, and concluded that the use of the descriptor "flight simulator" was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.