London Heathrow Airport: Protesters On Runway Result in Delayed And Canceled Flights!

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There were some interesting news coming from London’s Heathrow Airport this morning. Apparently a group of environmental activists made their way onto the northern runway, chaining themselves together and to fences.

Heathrow ProtestThe group of young activists calling their little stunt ‘Plane Stupid‘ cut through a perimeter fence before making their way onto the runway. 13 flights were cancelled in the wake of this action.The BBC (access their article here) reported that it took roughly 7 hours to have everyone of the thirteen activists removed and the area cleared. 9 of whom were arrested under suspicion of Aviation Act offences.

Direct action group Plane Stupid said 13 demonstrators opposed to the airport’s expansion plans got on to the northern runway at 03:30 BST.. The group cut through a perimeter fence, which was later repaired.

The runway was closed for nearly three hours and 13 flights were cancelled.

The ability of protesters to get through a fence and on to the runway has raised security concerns.

The airport apologised for the disruption caused and advised passengers to check with their airlines before they travel.

Nine protesters were arrested on suspicion of Aviation Act offences, police said.

All the protesters were removed from the runway by 10:00 BST

The airport said the first flight was meant to take off from the northern runway at about 06:00 BST. The runway reopened at 06:20.

It seems the effect was rather minimal as far as cancellations and delays go but every cancelled flight is one too many and the damages involved will be in the millions of pounds.

The Guardian (access here) reported that the airport authority (BAA) will likely seek compensation from the group through legal avenues:

“The cost will be in the couple of millions. The airport will attempt to make a civil recovery.”

This whole action substantiated after a controversial project for a new third runway has been gaining new momentum after a new report on the matter was published last month (The Guardian reported on the matter here). It was one of PM David Cameron’s election stands to negate such a project and instead an expansion for London-Gatwick has been the preferred solution. The new study however seems to favor the third runway at Heathrow and responses from Downing Street have been changing tune since the matter was put to rest after the election.


Such a protest is always controversial. It for sure disrupts the traffic and hits innocent passengers who are always the victims of any aviation related action, be it union-led strikes or environmental protests. While I in principle agree that the whole debate about this runway has not been led in good faith from the side of the British Government, I fail to see the substance of climate change in this matter.

The air traffic will continue to grow one way or the other. If the planes take off in Gatwick or Heathrow the emissions will be the same. At the same time, the more planes clog up the taxiways in Heathrow waiting their turn, the more emissions there will be. Those travelers who frequent LHR know that the wait can sometimes be substantial due to congestion.

Passengers should nevertheless consult their airlines website to check on the status of their flights to avoid any unwanted troubles (delays) resulting from this action.

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