Business aviation operations faced disruptive protests by environmental campaigners in multiple locations across Europe this week, with facilities in the UK, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands targeted. Groups including Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion, and Last Generation targeted private terminals and FBOs in a coordinated protest to coincide with the start of the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt. The groups are demanding a complete ban on private jets and high taxes on airline frequent flyers.
In the UK on Thursday, protesters tried to blockade the entrances to Farnborough Airport and the Harrods Aviation FBO at London Luton Airport. Local police confirmed that they had responded to calls about the protest. Harrods Aviation managing director Paul Norton told AIN the company had no comment to make about the protests.
Farnborough Airport confirmed that protestors had gathered at its entrance. "The airport remained fully operational during the time they were present and there was no disruption caused to any flights," the company said in a written statement. In 2018, the privately-owned facility became the first business aviation airport in the world to be certified by the Airports Council International as carbon neutral.
Similar protests were also staged this week at Milan Linate Airport, and on November 5, around 500 Dutch members of Greenpeace rode bicycles into the business aviation enclave at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and blocked aircraft from being moved. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) condemned the protest at Schiphol, reporting via a LinkedIn post that the demonstration resulted in flights being canceled and that one medical flight had to be diverted.
"Our sector flies up to 70 medical flights a day, which saves lives when not disrupted," said the group. At least one aircraft was damaged during the protest, according to an EBAA member operator.
In Germany, authorities have threatened protesters from the Lost Generation group with 30 days of “preventive custody” in jail for planning disruption at airports. In September, protesters sprayed paint on the Signature Flight Support FBO at Paris Le Bourget Airport.
EBAA has resisted mounting pressure for a ban on private aircraft to be implemented across the European Union. Momentum for this move has been increasing since August, when France’s transport minister Clément Beaune called for tougher regulation of the industry. President Emmanuel Macron and the country’s Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, subsequently requested “concrete proposals” for measures that could include bans on some flights and punitive taxes.
Athar Husain Khan, EBAA's secretary general, has acknowledged that business aviation has become something of a lightning rod for demands from environmental groups that are showing increasing hostility towards the industry. “This scrutiny has served to muddy…an industry that has been working hard for almost two decades to move in the right direction on sustainability,” he commented in a blog published October 20.
In an earlier statement issued on September 7, EBAA argued that these moves would deter the aviation industry from making flights more sustainable. The group said business aviation has been an early adopter of technologies such as sustainable aviation fuels.
On October 7, the International Business Aviation Council and EBAA jointly applauded the adoption by ICAO member states of a commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from aviation by 2050. EBAA made this commitment publicly in 2009.