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The BBC's Tom Symonds
"A bitter two day battle with British Airways"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 14:22 GMT
Ryanair wins High Court battle
Ryanair aeroplane
Ryanair was forced to withdraw ads
Low cost airline Ryanair has won a High Court battle with British Airways over claims that BA was "five times more expensive" than its smaller rival.

BA launched the court action after Ryanair ran a series of cheeky ads in national newspapers headed "expensive BA___DS".

The ads, which included price comparisons for the Frankfurt route, were banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled they were in bad taste.

These bully boy tactics are typical of BA

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive

BA's legal action ended in defeat on Tuesday in the High Court, where Mr Justice Jacob ruled that the adverts, while vulgar, were true "in substance".

"I suspect the real reason BA do not like it is precisely because it is true," the judge added.


Judge Jacob ruled that BA had not been a victim of trademark infringement or malicious falsehood in what he branded Ryanair's "bastard advertisement."

BA claimed that use in the two adverts of the letters BA infringes a trade mark it registered in 1988 and that the price comparisons amounted to malicious falsehood.

But Judge Jacob rejected the trademark claim, saying that while the advert might amount to vulgar abuse, it did not constitute malicious falsehood.

Rounding on BA for persisting with the case he dubbed the action "immature".

"I must decide the case, however immature it may seem for two large companies to be fighting this sort of dispute in the courts," he said.

"It seems particularly odd commercially that BA should persist in its claim that price comparisons are misleading.

"The complaint amounts to this: Ryanair exaggerate in suggesting BA is five times more expensive because BA is only three times more expensive."

'Saturday night rule'

The case revolved around the so-called 'Saturday night rule', which sees big airlines such as BA charge midweek flyers more if they return before the weekend.

Judge Jacob said: "If you want to fly out on a weekday and fly back before the weekend it costs a lot more than if you are prepared to stay over the Saturday night.

We brought this case because we believed the advertisements were misleading and unfair. We still do.

British Airways

"The airlines exploit the fact that in the case of short, mostly business, trips, people want to go out and home for the weekend.

"I rather think that many resent the rule, which, until the advent of 'low cost' airlines such as [Ryanair], could not be avoided."

'Outrageously expensive'

Commenting on its court victory, Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said:

"We are amazed that BA would spend vast sums of money in the High Court just to prove what everybody else already knows, namely that British Airways are outrageously expensive and have been charging outrageously high air fares to its British and European customers, particularly those who can't stay Saturday night.

"These bully boy tactics are typical of BA and the attempt to gag Ryanair or frighten the national newspapers was doomed to failure."

BA is considering an appeal against the judgement.

A spokesman said: "We brought this case because we believed the advertisements were misleading and unfair. We still do.

"We are very disappointed at the courts decision and we are considering whether to appeal."

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