An ad for CrossCountry Trains has been banned for over-promising on the availability of complimentary food and drink for first-class passengers.

Despite the firm’s website claiming passengers would receive complimentary food and drink “on most of our first-class services”, catering was available on less than 80% of journeys, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found.

The website said: “An at-seat service of complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks is available throughout the day for all first-class customers … In addition to drinks and snacks, customers on longer journeys can choose from a range of complimentary sandwiches.”

Two passengers who said they frequently travelled on the first-class service but did not receive complimentary food and drink complained that the ad was misleading.

CrossCountry Trains told the ASA the period leading up to the complainants seeing the ad – September to November 2023 – was marked by “exceptional disruption” due to industrial action and four storms.

It had planned to offer catering, including first-class food and drink, on between 70% and 78% of its Voyager routes, which operated on most of its long-distance services from September to November 2023, with slight variations depending on the day of the week.

The ASA said the ad “positioned complimentary food and drink as a key part of CrossCountry Trains’ first-class offering”.

It said the scheduled rate of between 70% and 78% of services offering catering was insufficient to substantiate the overall impression of the ad that complimentary food and drink would be available on all but a few first-class services.

The ASA said: “We acknowledged that CrossCountry Trains had made amendments to their website, but for the reasons stated above, we concluded that the claim ‘complimentary food and drink’ was misleading, and therefore breached the Code.”

It ruled that the ad must not appear again, adding: “We told CrossCountry Trains not to use the claim ‘complimentary food and drink’ unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate the claim.”