Belgian national airline Sabena has filed suit in the Brussels Commercial Court demanding that Irish rival Ryanair withdraw a comparative ad campaign which it slammed as “distorted” and “offensive”.

Dublin-headquartered Ryanair, a no-frills, low cost carrier, recently launched a new European hub at Brussels airport to service thirty additional daily flights. Last week it ran a ad in a Belgian newspaper featuring the nation’s famed tourist icon, Le Mannekin Pis, headlined: “Sick to death over Sabena's high fares? Low fares are coming to Belgium.”

The accompanying copy claimed that Ryanair’s lowest one-way Brussels-Dublin fare was 80%-90% less than the cheapest one-way ticket offered by Sabena.

Sabena was distinctly unamused. Not only at its association with the micturating mannekin, but also because it does not offer a one way option on economy travel - thus making it unfair (it claims) to compare its business class one-way fare with Ryanair’s economy equivalent.

"For us is not the fact that they engage in actual comparisons ... but that they use slogans in their recent ads which are not real comparisons and which are at the same time offensive," said a Sabena spoke.

Ryanair’s response was predictably robust. “We certainly are going to defend our advertising as both true and accurate and we're going to defend that very vigorously,” the Irish carrier told Reuters.

Sabena’s is asking the court to order Ryanair to withdraw the offending ads. It also seeks damages of Bfr10 million ($222,200) for any future campaign which breaches the law on comparative advertising.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)