A Brief History of Anti-Aviation Protests at Airports in Europe

By David Mumford

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As expected, anti-aviation protestors targeted a couple of airports in Belgium this weekend.

  • At EBAW/Antwerp, they tried to disrupt private jets by gathering at the aircraft parking area, but were stopped by police.
  • And at EBLG/Liege, they tried to block a warehouse next to the airport to stop cargo planes from being unloaded and to stop trucks from leaving the site.

Recent protests like this at other airports in Europe have become increasingly aggressive, with protestors causing damage to aircraft and disrupting airport ops for several hours.

Their focus is:

  1. Stopping aviation entirely (they don’t like aircraft in general)
  2. Cargo ops (too many unnecessary plastic items from China)
  3. Business Aviation (which they call ‘Luxury Flights’).

When protests like these are planned, a drop-and-go is a good option if you must operate – longer-parked aircraft are often the target. If you absolutely have to operate to one of the airports threatened by protests, make sure you park well away from the perimeter fences – or ideally park in a hangar if one is available.

A Brief History of Anti-Aviation Protests at Airports in Europe

Here’s a look at some of the most notable incidents over the past few years.

LEIB/Ibiza Airport, Spain (July 2023):
Activists vandalised an Embraer Phenom 300E at Ibiza Airport, causing damage to the aircraft.

EDXW/Sylt Airport, Germany (June 2023):
Letze Generation protesters covered a Cessna Citation Mustang in paint, resulting in the aircraft being declared a write-off due to extensive damage.

LFMD/Cannes-Mandelieu Airport, France (May 2023):
Extinction Rebellion used a remote-controlled car to block a private jet, releasing smoke as a decoy. The incident caused disruption and highlighted a failure in airport perimeter security but didn’t result in significant damage to the aircraft.

LSGG/Geneva Airport, EBACE, Switzerland (May 2023):
Protesters breached security controls, causing damage to at least one displayed aircraft, leading to disruptions in airport ops, and flight diversions (not to mention increased fuel consumption due to the airport closure).

Coordinated campaign across 13 countries, COP27 (November 2022):
Multiple protests occurred during the COP27 climate-change conference, with security managing to keep most protesters outside the FBOs. The protests caused disruptions but didn’t lead to significant damage to the airports or aircraft. Protests took place outside several airport terminals at airports including Berlin, Milan, Stockholm, Trondheim, and London-area airports Farnborough and Luton.

EHAM/Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Netherlands (November 2022):
Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion protesters breached the airport’s fence, blocking private jets. Several individuals faced prosecution, but only a few were charged despite causing considerable damage to aircraft.

EGLC/London City Airport, UK (October 2019):
An activist from Extinction Rebellion aimed to disrupt flights by climbing on top of a British Airways aircraft. Only two flights were cancelled, and the airport said they remained fully operational throughout the day.

EGKK/Gatwick Airport, UK (Dec 2018):
Gatwick Airport experienced a significant disruption due to drone sightings near the airfield. The airport was forced to close its runway for around 24hrs, leading to extensive flight cancellations and delays affecting tens of thousands of passengers over several days.


For an excellent write-up on these recent protests, including the industry’s response, legal complexities, security measures, and the global impact on business aviation, click here.

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David Mumford

David Mumford

News editor, notam sifter, airspace monitor, map maker, and general purveyor of flight ops info.

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