Climate activists blocked an entrance to Farnborough Airport on Saturday, November 4 in protest at the proposed expansion that could nearly double private jet flights to 70,000 annually, despite concerns about its environmental impact. 

Protestors, including members of Extinction Rebellion, released smoke flares and displayed banners with messages like ‘Flying to Extinction’ and ‘Private Flights Cost The Earth’.

The demonstration included campaigners from Extinction Rebellion (XR) Waverley and Borders, Farnborough Noise campaign group, Blackwater Valley Friends of the Earth, Alton Climate Action Network, a representative of Surrey and Hampshire Borders Quakers and local residents.

The protest followed a consultation period on Farnborough Airport’s expansion plans which ended on October 18 and which has drawn fierce opposition from local residents and environmental campaigners.

The proposals include doubling the airport’s annual weekend flight limit from 8,900 to 18,900 flights and upping its annual flight limit by 71 per cent from 50,000 to 70,000 flights.

The 33,120 private flights to and from Farnborough Airport last year carried an average of just 2.5 passengers per flight, with each passenger responsible for the emission of nine times as much carbon as an economy flight to the US and 20 times that to Spain. Currently 40 per cent of flights to and from the airport are empty.

Campaigners say private aviation significantly contributes to climate change due to its high carbon emissions. They claim flying in a private jet is the most inefficient and most carbon-intensive mode of transport. 

Private jets are 10 times more carbon intensive than a normal airliner and 50 times worse than trains, with a four-hour private flight emitting as much as the average person does in a year, according to research by environmental campaign group Transport & Environment.

XR Waverley and Borders says, at a time when we must drastically reduce our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, Farnborough Airport owner Macquarie is "blatantly ignoring the science and is complicit in the unfolding climate crisis".

Rieks Drijver, 61, from Milford, said: “I am protesting at Farnborough Airport because flying in private jets is probably the most wasteful form of transport. Most people are unaware that only around 10 per cent of the global population flies. It's a privilege of wealthy people and yet the worst climate impacts are felt by people who never fly. Flying in private jets is worse. 

He adds: “It's unbelievably selfish and arrogant for anyone to think that they can squander so much of our global carbon budget on flights.  At the consultations held on plans to increase the number of flights at Farnborough, it was clear that many people are angry about the use of private jets. We should all be outraged that anyone can think flying in a private jet is justifiable. Because I am outraged, I'm taking a stand with those who feel the same. I am also hopeful, precisely because so many people feel the same.”

Nancy Clarke, 60, a gardener from Medstead, near Alton, said: “I’m here at Farnborough Airport to protest against private jets. Shall I state the obvious? The planet cannot take any more CO2 emissions and private jets, used by the very wealthy, celebrities and royals, emit grotesque amounts of climate wrecking carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Aviation fuel is not even taxed. Many of these planes fly empty. It must stop.”

Jules Crossley, 58, from Aldershot, said: “The airport exclusively serves ultra-wealthy people who are private jet users; the most carbon-intensive method of travelling. There is no business justification for expanding the number of yearly flights, which will have a direct impact on local residents in terms of air and noise pollution; especially at weekends when the airport wants to more than double the number of flights. We hope that local people will come and join us between 10am and 12, to show the airport operators how much opposition there is to their plans and how reckless it is when we are in the middle of a climate crisis.”

Julia Longrigg, aged 55, a Quaker from Farnborough added: “I'm here because as a Quaker, I feel the spiritual crisis is folding into the ecological crisis and the ecological crisis is folding into the economic crisis. I believe challenging market economics (such as the Farnborough Airport proposals) with a sense of the goodness of God in creation is to join a spiritual struggle."

To read Farnborough Airport CEO Simon Geere's response to criticism, click here.