Extinction Rebellion protestors takeover stage at EBAA’s AIROPS conference


Extinction Rebellion activists protesting on the stage at AIROPS 2023 in Brussels. (credit: Extinction Rebellion Twitter)

Activists from climate action group, Extinction Rebellion (XR), briefly took over the stage today at AIROPS 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.

XR activists gained entry to ground handling operations event AIROPS, held by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), to stand on the stage chanting slogans and holding a banner that read: “Make them pay”.

The protest took place alongside similar demonstrations across the globe, including private jet terminals at London Luton, Amsterdam Schiphol, Bromma Stockholm and Malpensa Milan and Lisbon. There was also a protest outside a Bombardier facility in Victoria, Australia.

In response to the protests, EBAA secretary-general, Athar Husain Khan, said: “Business aviation has a vital role to play in supporting the growth and competitiveness of companies across Europe and we are determined to do so in a way that is safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible.”

The association also said AIROPS is Europe’s premier event for ground handling operations which promotes safety, professional working culture, employment, as well as sustainability in business aviation. “As an educative platform, AIROPS gathers pilots, flight operations professionals, and ground handlers, from all over Europe, to discuss topics related to flight operational security, the EU’s landscape for airspace control, as well as the industry path towards achieving net-zero by 2050, among others.”

The statement also noted business aviation’s role as “testbed” for technological development, referencing innovations such as light composite structures, global satellite positioning (GPS) and winglets. “These technologies, later adopted by commercial aviation, have significantly contributed to increasing the efficiency of our operations and reducing emissions in the whole aviation sector,” said the EBAA.

Last week, Corporate Jet Investor’s London 2023 conference was also disrupted by protestors. The activists, from Fossil Free London and Just Stop Oil, gained entry to the conference before disrupting a session from the EBAA’s secretary-general. One of the activists, interviewed outside shortly afterwards, who wished to remain anonymous, told CJI they were protesting because they are “terrified about the future” and “what the climate is going to do to people around the UK and across world”.

The protestor added: “There are lots of things we have to do deal with that [climate crisis], but the most unjust and gratuitous part of it is the corporate aviation industry. It is a tiny, tiny minute proportion of people who are responsible for a grossly disproportionate share of carbon emissions and those are the people who are going to be most insulated from climate change’s effects.”

A fellow activist, who also wished to remain anonymous, told CJI: “I think it is fundamentally a social justice issue. There are people across the world who are already feeling the impact of the climate crisis. Yet the people inside this building are acting like nothing is wrong. Most people in the world have never sat on a plane, so to then go one step further and start talking about private aviation shows a complete disregard for human life and safety – as well as the safety of our natural environment.”

Read more about the climate change protest at CJI London 2023.