Protesters managed to close Stansted's runway for several hours this morning to highlight aviation's impact on climate change. About 50 members of Plane Stupid broke through the airport's perimeter fencing using fancy technology – uh, boltcutters – and set up a barricade of concrete blocks and fencing, which they then chained themselves to.
Plane Stupid says the intention was to close the runway for as long as possible, preventing the release of “thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere”. They certainly achieved that aim as Ryanair alone cancelled 52 flights, but have they calculated the PR effects of stranding thousands of annoyed passengers?
While Stansted is unlikely to get its controversial second runway any time soon, BAA has the nod to increase passenger numbers by 10 million and bring an extra 23,000 flights a year. The plans have sparked enormous local protest but it's usually big brother Heathrow that gets this sort of large scale demo. Such protest inexperience may explain Stansted's staff's alleged enthusiasm with a snowplough...
After all the kerfuffle, protesters might only need to wait for the economy to tank further if they want to cut aircraft emissions. British Airways is reducing flight numbers from Gatwick by 15% next year as business folk prefer to do their meetings by videoconference rather than jetting across the world for a handshake and a sandwich. Unfortunately that means losing over 100 ground-based jobs. Supporters of expansion at Stansted also cite job creation as a pro, and in these torrid times we're just glad it's not us making that decision.
Image by Håkan Dahlström under the Creative Commons licence.