By Rhys Jones
LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The UK's advertising watchdog has ruled against Airbus over its complaint that a Boeing Co advert used misleading figures to promote one of its aircraft against a rival made by the European company.
The Boeing advert, which ran late last year in trade magazine Flight International, said its 747-8 wide-body jet had a "26 percent trip cost advantage over the (Airbus) A380" and was "8 percent more fuel efficient per seat".
In a ruling announced on Wednesday, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had not upheld a claim by Airbus, a unit of EADS, that the advert was misleading and contained statements that could not be substantiated.
Fuel efficiency is becoming increasingly important for airlines against a backdrop of high jetfuel prices, so performance claims are a hot issue for Boeing and Airbus, fierce rivals who slug it out for the lion's share of the $100 billion a year global jet market.
The ASA said it agreed with Boeing that the advert was the result of extensive technical analysis and was unlikely to mislead the type of industry experts who read Flight magazine.
"The intended audience would understand that the comparisons were based on modelling and assumptions, would be familiar with the method of comparison used and would seek more information before making a decision to purchase," the ASA said.
"We concluded that the advert was not likely to mislead."
Airbus also objected to the statement that the "fuel burn per seat" figure was based on attributing 555 seats to the A380 and 467 seats to the 747-8, taking no account of "seat pitch", which generally provides more space on the A380.
Airbus said the comparison was unfair because if the 747-8 was brought up to the same comfort standard as the A380 in terms of seat pitch, it would be arranged with only 405 seats, significantly increasing its fuel burn per seat.
The ASA said the advert's target audience would understand that the plane's highly-customisable nature meant any efficiency claims based on fuel burn per seat would be subject to "considerable variability depending on a customer's exact specifications".
A Boeing spokesman said the company was glad the ASA had dismissed what it called "unfounded complaints". An Airbus spokesman said the company maintained Boeing's failure to use comparable seat counts in its advert skewed the statistics.
The ASA also said the information provided by Boeing in its advert would be unlikely to impact the decision-making of airlines, who are given access to vast amount of technical and supporting documentation by planemakers.