Private jet airports under threat
The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) acknowledges “increasing concern” about the implications of destructive and disruptive airport protests for the broader aviation industry.
“The EBAA calls upon the individual members states to actively prosecute those individuals that knowingly breach and enter secured airport spaces,” a spokesman told us. “We acknowledge and respect the public’s right to protest, but activism should not compromise the safety of passengers, crew, and airport personnel.”
The association highlights the complicated legal and regulatory landscape within the EU’s 27 member states – each of which holds national competence over such matters. And it has started conversations with a range of stakeholders, including the European Commission, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), plus various member states, it says.
“Amidst these developments, we must not lose sight of our principal obligation towards aviation safety,” the spokesman told us. “Hence, we call upon all these stakeholders, and indeed the broader aviation community, to remain steadfast in upholding aviation security and safety standards.”
Meanwhile, the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) also highlighted the need for the authorities to balance the democratic right to peaceful protests with ensuring the safety and functionality of airports. “Proactive communication and understanding can often go a long way in preventing confrontations and finding solutions that respect the rights of protestors while minimising disruptions to airport operations,” a BBGA spokesperson told us.
BBGA suggests nine general strategies that airports and authorities might employ to deter disruptive airport protests. These include: designated protest areas, clear communications, engage with protestors, increased security, monitor social media, collaborate with the police, education, highlight legal consequences of breaking the law and focusing on continuous improvement.
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BBGA’s nine security strategies
1. Establish designated protest areas: Work with local authorities and protestors to designate specific areas where peaceful protests can take place without disrupting airport operations or passenger flow. This was tried at the EBACE 2023 event but the protestors don’t always stick to the script.
2. Communicate clearly: Provide clear guidelines on what is considered acceptable protest behaviour and what actions will lead to intervention by airport security or the police.
3. Engage with protest organisers: Establish open lines of communication with protest organisers to better understand their concerns and work towards finding common ground. While not easy, the industry has to be seen to engage.
4. Increase security presence: Ensure that there is a visible security presence at the airport to deter any potential disruptions or illegal activities.
5. Monitor social media: Keep an eye on social media platforms to track protest plans and identify potential issues before they escalate.
6. Collaborate with local police: Work closely with the police to develop contingency plans and ensure a coordinated response to any protest-related incidents.
7. Educate the public: Raise awareness about the importance of maintaining airport operations and safety, emphasising the potential impact of disruptions on passengers, businesses, and the local economy.
8. Legal consequences: Make it clear that any illegal activities, such as trespassing or damaging airport property and aircraft, will be dealt with according to the law and we should ask that any damage to property including aircraft is prosecuted fully.
9. Continuous improvement: Regularly review and improve security and communication strategies based on past experiences and feedback.