Mango, the low-cost South African Airways subsidiary, has been forced to withdraw all advertising of its in-flight WiFi services after a passenger complained that he was unable to access the service.
Mango launched its in-flight WiFi service in the first half of 2012.
One Mr Kowen lodged a consumer complaint against Mango Airlines for its Internet and print advertising promoting the airline’s on-board wireless services.
He said that he had specifically chosen Mango instead of his preferred airline because of the service, and had to forego loyalty points as a result. This decision, he said, was solely based on the advertised WiFi in-flight internet.
“However, the two aircraft used did not have working WiFi. According to flight crew on one aircraft, the WiFi had not been working for more than a month. This clearly makes the promise of on-board WiFi misleading,” the complainant said.
According to the Mango adverts: “G-Connect will provide access to the Internet via 3G, WiFi, ADSL and In-Flight WiFi, with a single online account. There is no need for separate accounts from separate service providers and you can sign up for free at www.gconnect.co.za”.
An advert on the plane itself read: “Wi-Fi Internet available on this flight”.
The ASA took into consideration a charge of misleading claims by the airline, and the non-availability of advertised products.
In its defense, Mango submitted that the complainant has a choice of several airlines in South Africa to provide transportation between two cities.
“While true that the WiFi was not working on any of his four flights, this is due to maintenance and repairs that were necessary,” Mango said.
“It has at all times advised passengers that the WiFi offering was in testing (Beta) phase. In addition, when passengers happened to board a plane that did not have functional WiFi, they were advised of this.”
Mango said that, if the lack of WiFi was the sole reason for selecting the airline, there was nothing stopping the complainant from making use of another airline for his second, third or fourth flight.
The respondent argued that the complainant was “opportunistic and appears to be attempting to intimidate it into offering the free flights requested by the complainant”.
Mango also claimed that Kowen harassed staff and corporate partners in an attempt to influence his claim.
The ASA said that, while the respondent’s WiFi offering might be in “Beta” or testing phase, the advertising submitted by the complainant made no mention of this.
It added that Mango failed to justify that it’s “WiFi Internet” is generally available on its flights, with perhaps a few exceptions.
The ASA found in favour of Kowen and ordered Mango to withdraw the advertising material and relevant claims in its current format, and ensure that the material is not used again in its current format unless it has adequate evidence to show that it is able to supply the service.
Mango has since changed the WiFi advertising on its site to include the line “Terms and conditions apply. G-Connect In-flight WiFi available on most Mango flights.” (emphasis added).