FlySafair's advertising, minus masks
A still from the now-banned FlySafair commercial.
  • Wearing masks is the law, FlySafair said on the weekend, after it ejected a passenger from a flight for not doing so.
  • The airline has now had a television advertisement banned, for showing an illegal and unsafe failure to wear masks in public.
  • FlySafair was sending a message that social distancing is not required among family, and that rules don't apply while on holiday, SA's ad regulator said.
  • The company had reused pre-coronavirus footage to save money.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


On the weekend local airline FlySafair said it had been left with no choice but to return a plane to the terminal and eject a passenger who had refused to wear a mask.

Masks are the law, and enforcing their use is both a legal requirement and the right thing to do, FlySafair said.

But at almost the same time, one of its advertisements was banned for ignoring mask rules in a fashion that encouraged illegal and unsafe behaviour, an advertising regulator said.

In a decision dated Friday, the day before the incident aboard a FlySafair flight at OR Tambo, the Advertising Regulatory Bureau (ARB) said the airline had no excuse for showing a presumed family group failing to adhere to social distancing – and particularly not for showing friends hanging out in public without masks.

In one scene in the short ad, three women are shown having cocktails next to a pool. They, the ARB conceded, could fall within the exception that allows eating and drinking in public. But "none of the five people in the background appear to be wearing masks," the ARB said.

A previous scene showing a family reuniting may partially take place in public, the ARB said, and may fall under the definition of a gathering, both of which require masks.

In the meanwhile, FlySafair's ad starts with a scene on a plane where everyone is scrupulously wearing masks.

"The failure to show masks in the subsequent scenes therefore may imply to some viewers that once you are on holiday, the rules no longer apply, and you may remove your masks and ignore social distancing protocols, going so far as to hug your family and friends," said the ARB in its ruling.

FlySafair said it had shot only the beginning of the ad, with masked attendants and passengers on the plane, and had reused old footage for the remainder in order to save money at a time when the airline industry is under great financial stress.

The airline also pointed to a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen, which reads: "Some scenes of this commercial were filmed pre-Covid-19. FlySafair supports the use of facemasks".

FlySafair disclaimer

That text was not large enough to be legible, the ARB said, and FlySafair had other options in making the ad that would have both saved money and not depicted illegal acts.

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