Climate protester removed from Aer Lingus flight to Dublin

Second protester climbs on plane as Extinction Rebellion activists target London City airport

A protester lay on top of a plane while another forced a jet to turn around on the runway as climate change activists descended on London City Airport , causing some disruption but ultimately failing to cancel flights. Video: Reuters

 

An Aer Lingus flight from London City Airport to Dublin was delayed when an activist staged an on-board protest as the plane was due to take off.

Extinction Rebellion activists have been holding demonstrations aimed at shutting down London City Airport and several have been arrested.

The passenger stood up just as the plane was due to take off and began to deliver a lecture on climate change.

BBC Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt, who was on the flight, tweeted to say that a “smartly dressed man in late middle age” stood up to deliver a lecture on climate change in the aisle, and politely declined to take his seat when asked to by cabin crew.

“Plane was at the end of runway. So the pilot taxied back to gate where plane was met by throng of police. They came on board and escorted the protester off the plane. No skirmish and protester left the plane.

“So protester on our plane obviously clocked the best way round security: dress smartly and act as a normal passenger and then seize moment and limelight once plane on the move,” he wrote.

“And the final irony of the climate protest on our flight. We cannot take off until we have taken on extra fuel . . . to replace the fuel used up during the protest, our pilot notes with humour,” he said.

Aer Lingus said the passenger was removed “due to disruptive behaviour on board” and a full security check of the aircraft was completed prior to the flight departing.

Passengers on the CityJet aircraft, which was operating as Aer Lingus Flight 283, left the plane at the request of the captain before being allowed to board again after additional security screening, an airport spokesman said.

Occupation

The activists are attempting a three-day “Hong Kong-style occupation of the terminal building” to highlight what they claim is the “incompatibility” of the east London airport’s planned expansion with meeting the government’s legally binding commitment to cut emissions to net-zero by 2050.

An Extinction Rebellion protester stands on the airport roof as they try to blockade London City Airport. Photograph. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
An Extinction Rebellion protester stands on the airport roof as they try to blockade London City Airport. Photograph. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Whilst some flights were delayed at the airport on Thursday, and some protesters managed to get into the terminal building, there were no cancellations.

As part of the action at the airport on Thursday, a protester lay on top of another plane. Passengers arriving for flights at the airport were redirected to a second terminal entrance by security workers and were not allowed to enter the building without showing their boarding cards.

A Reuters photographer saw the man, former paralympian cyclist James Brown, lay himself across the top of the body of a British Airways Embraer 190 jet. “I managed to get on the roof,” Mr Brown said in a video he posted online.

“This is all about the climate and ecological crisis. We’re protesting against government inaction.” He was eventually removed.

A spokeswoman for BA said: “We are investigating what happened as a matter of urgency.”

An activist who gave her name as Claire (51) told the PA news agency: “I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few hours, but I do know that a number of people have come here, City Airport, today to make the statement that there are many areas of our lives that are going to have to change because of the climate crisis we’ve created, and one of them is flying.

“We can’t carry on with life, with business as usual.”

Claire said she had not made up her mind about whether she would allow herself to be arrested, but was later led away by police officers.

A spokesman for the airport said: “We can confirm that a number of protesters have arrived at London City Airport.

“We continue to work closely with the Metropolitan Police to ensure the safe operation of the airport, which remains fully open and operational.”

Elsewhere at the airport, activists continued to cause disruption outside the terminal, as several sat down on the zebra crossing, blocking traffic going in and out of the passenger drop-off zone.

Cars and buses were backed up in both directions before the demonstrators were cleared from the roads by police.

The action is part of the latest wave of Extinction Rebellion protests in London, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change and wildlife losses.

Roads around parliament and Whitehall remained closed to traffic apart from cyclists amid a heavy police presence, with protesters camped in Trafalgar Square and nearby St James’s Park.

A total of 1,000 people had been arrested in connection with the protests by Thursday. - PA/Reuters/Bloomberg