Airbus sparks fresh controversy with 'four engines are better than two' ad

LONDON - If you happen to be over a polar region on a long-haul flight you would probably rather the airliner you were on had four engines, right? That's the message of a controversial new Airbus campaign, which seemingly questions the safety of two-engine planes made by rival Boeing.

The ad for the Airbus A340 jetliner, which made its debut at this week's Farnborough air show, reads "A340. 4 engines 4 long haul" and seems to question whether Boeing's twin-engine 777 is up to long-haul flights.

The ad raises the fears among passengers that for real safety on long-haul flights, four engines are better than two. Airbus argues that the ad is just about the "operational flexibility" of the A340, but rivals are seeing it differently.

Airbus is set to take the idea further, according to reports, with an upcoming execution depicting polar bears on an ice cap looking up at a four-engine jetliner passing overhead. The copy tells customers that there are better places in the world to land if an engine failed.

The 300ft-long ad, which could be seen along the runway at the Farnborough international air show, was created by the Havas-owned Euro RSCG C&O, Paris.

The ad harks back to a previous effort, also created by Euro RSCG, which upset many customers. The 1999 ad, which showed an A340 flying in darkness, read: "If you're over the middle of the Pacific, you want to be in the middle of four engines".

The point was driven home for Airbus by Sir Richard Branson earlier this week who, on taking delivery of new Airbus aircraft for Virgin Atlantic, said 18% of passengers would go out of their way to choose four-engine planes.

A spokesman for Airbus told the Wall Street Journal that while the company had not intention of upsetting customers, there were "benefits to be gained by pointing out the inconveniences associated with what happens if a twin-engine plane must divert".

Behind the campaign are the simple statistics: the A340 is some way behind the 777 in terms of sales.

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