Plane Stupid

Plane Stupid

Plane Stupid
Founded 2005, UK
Focus Environmental
Area served
Method Nonviolence[1] Direct Action
Website .com.planestupidwww
Protesters on the roof of the Palace of Westminster

Plane Stupid is a UK-focused[2] group of environmental protesters who state their aim as wanting to see an end to airport expansion for what it sees as "unnecessary and unsustainable" flights. It is a loose association of autonomous regional groups,[3] and is funded by donations.[4]

The group was founded in 2005 by [5] In January 2008 Joss Garman was named by The Guardian as one of its "50 people who could save the planet" for his campaigning work around aviation.[6]


The group was formed in September 2005 when a group of activists decided to disrupt an international aviation conference held in a central London hotel. They released helium balloons with personal alarms up to the ceiling during the keynote speech by a senior British Airways executive.[7]

Protests at UK airports

In September 2006 Plane Stupid blocked a taxiway at East Midlands Airport for four hours.[8] Leicestershire police said that officers were on scene within minutes, but by that time airport security already had the demonstrators contained and therefore they did not find it necessary to deploy all the resources available to them.[9]

In October 2007 Plane Stupid blockaded the entrance to at Manchester Airport's departure lounge in terminal 3.[10]

In March 2008, around 300 people who took part in an hour-long flashmob protest during the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5 in March 2008, against proposals to build a third runway for Heathrow Airport. A spokesman for the BAA spokesman stated that “This pressure group would do far better to engage with the aviation industry in proper debate on climate issues rather than in publicity stunts.” and Michelle Di Leo, from Flying Matters commented that “Plane Stupid are indulging in irresponsible gestures.[11]

Stansted Airport, December 2008

A protester blocking the taxi-way

On 8 December 2008 Plane Stupid activists occupied a taxiway at London Stansted Airport. The protest occurred during the 2008 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań. They breached security whilst the runway was closed and prevented it from re-opening as planned at 05:00. 57 protesters were later arrested. BAA said protesters did not get on to the runway, but it was closed as a "precaution". Fifty-six Ryanair flights were cancelled and 56,000 passengers were delayed by the protest.[2]

David Millward, Transport Editor for The Telegraph suggested that they should be called 'Plane Selfish'[12] and Judge John Perkins told the court when sentencing 22 protesters to between 50 and 90 hours of community services that "Substantial loss was caused to the authorities that were carrying out lawful activities. I accept there is an honourable tradition of peaceful protest in this country, and long may it continue. But that does not justify the sort of activity that you were involved in."[13] Ryanair is seeking £2.2 million in compensation for the disruption caused and almost £500,000 for "reputational damage" from BAA.[14]

BAA formally withdrew its planning application for a second Stansted runway on 24 May 2010.[15]

Southampton Airport, February 2009

Protesters outside Southampton Airport

Activists chained themselves to the main entrance to Southampton Airport and put up tents in protest at plans to expand the airport[16]

Aberdeen Airport, March 2009

On 3 March 2009, seven protesters from Plane Stupid occupied a taxiway at Aberdeen Airport, barricading themselves within a makeshift wire enclosure while two further protesters occupied the roof of the main terminal building.[17]

Nine of the activists involved were released on bail from Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 4 March after being charged with breach of the peace and vandalism in connection with the protest. They were banned from going near airports.[18]

London City Airport September 2009

On 29 September 2009 Plane Stupid activists together with activists from Flight the Flights dressed up in business suits protested at London City Airport on the first day of the new 'business-class only' trans-Atlantic British Airways flight to New York. The service, which carries 32 passengers, was launched one week after Willie Walsh pledge to the United Nations that aviation would deliver deep cuts in carbon emissions over the coming decades. A spokesman for British Airways said the company was "absolutely committed to tackling aviation’s impacts on climate change".[19]

Manchester Airport, May 2010

Roadside blockade of World Freight Terminal. Manchester Airport, UK. May 2010

On 24 May 2010, two protests took place simultaneously at Manchester Airport.[20] The first involved six people breaching the perimeter fence to form a human circle around the front wheel of a Monarch Airline jet, who were removed 4 hours later by police. A second group used tripods to blockade the road entrance to the World Freight Terminal nearby. The actions took place in opposition to plans to expand the World Freight Centre including the demolition of local homes at Hasty Lane.

London Heathrow Airport, July 2015

On July 13, 2015, at London Heathrow Airport, thirteen protesters drilled a hole in the metal perimeter fence of the airport at 3.30 a.m. and occupied the airport's north runway, causing disruption to hundreds of flights.[21] They remained on the airport's runway until 10 a.m., when they were removed by police. The motive was opposition to the building of a third runway at the airport, which had been recommended by the Airport Commission only weeks earlier.[21]

Camp for Climate Action, August 2007

Climate activists blockade British Airports Authority's headquarters during a day of action
In 2007 the Climate Camp, in its second year, chose to protest near London Heathrow Airport and on the last day of the week-long camp between 1,000 and 1,400 took part in a day of action.[22] In the lead-up to the camp BAA applied for a wide-reaching injunction which could have restricted the movement of over 5 million people near the airport and on approach routes to the airport. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, said that someone at BAA must be "out of their skull."[23]

In the end, an injunction was granted, covering three named defendants and any members of Plane Stupid, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise and Airportwatch who acted unlawfully.[24] During the camp, Plane Stupid also carried out protests at Airbus,[25] Farnborough and Biggin Hill.[26] After the camp ended, Duncan Bonfield, BAA director of corporate affairs, and Mark Mann, BAA head of media relations, resigned without stating their reasons.[27]

Other actions

Activists on the Scottish Parliament Building
"Heathrow, Erding, Egelsbach . . . nobody wants the airplane noise"

The group protested on the roof of EasyGroup's headquarters in November 2006 at the same time as the United Nations Climate talks in Nairobi. About 20 Easygroup staff were delayed getting into the building by an hour and a half.[28]

They disrupted the deliberations of a Transport Select Committee inquiry into the future of UK airports operator BAA in November 2007, handing out leaflets and chanting before being removed by police.[29]

During the 'Climate March' in London in December 2007, Plane Stupid activists claimed to have 'shut down' travel agents along the route. Their spokesman said: "These businesses continue, with full support from the government, to profit from wrecking our climate".[30]

In January 2008, 30 protests from Plane Stupid dressed as penguins took over the Natural History Museum's ice rink in protest at British Airways sponsorship of the museum's annual winter festivities.[31]

In February 2008 Plane Stupid launched a five-person strong roof-top protest on the UK's Houses of Parliament.[32][33]

In April 2008 a number of protesters climbed onto the roof of the Scottish Parliament Building.[34] They came down after five hours and two people were arrested.[35] The house of one of the protestors was raided by police afterwards which the protestor considered to amount to harassment.[36]

In January 2009 Plane Stupid drew attention to the opposition to the expansion of Frankfurt Airport[37] and visited the protest camp in April[38]

On 6 March 2009, protester Leila Deen threw green custard over Business Secretary Lord Mandelson at a low carbon summit hosted by Gordon Brown. The action was in protest at the frequent meetings between BAA representatives and ministers.[39][40]

Plane Stupid activists disrupted the 'PR Week magazine awards' ceremony on 20 October 2009 after arriving in evening wear and 'hijacking' the table reserved for Virgin Atlantic.[41] Most of the protesters were removed after around an hour.[42]

'Adopt a resident' scheme launched, 30 March 2009

Plane Stupid launched their 'Adopt a resident' where individual eco-activists are 'buddied' with residents of Sipson and will help them resist having their houses demolished as part of any future expansion of Heathrow[43] 40 residents and activists were brought together at St Mary’s Church Hall in Harmondsworth on 30 March[44]

Police and legal issues

Infiltration by 'spy', April 2008

In April 2008, Plane Stupid claimed that their group was infiltrated by an international espionage agency.[45] The Times reported that Toby Kendall, 24, an employee of C2i International, had gone undercover in the group using the name of "Ken Tobias." Airport operator, BAA confirmed to The Times that they had been in contact with C2i International but denied ever hiring the company.[46]

Libel claim - December 2008

At the end of 2008, the group's website was taken offline temporarily by their web host, 1and1, following suggestions from their hosting company that they were libelling BAA.[47]

Four arrests after banner drop

In March 2009 four protesters were arrested for Breach of the Peace after a banner drop from a multi-story carpark at Edinburgh Airport.[48]

Police try to recruit informer, April 2009

In April 2009 The Guardian reported that Plane Stupid activist Matilda Gifford was subject to an attempt by Strathclyde Police to recruit her as a paid informer about the group.[49]

Fairford Air Tattoo

In July 2010 Plane Stupid posted a spoof website targeting the Fairford Air Tattoo highlighting the linkage between climate change and the military industrial complex.[50]

See also


  1. ^ Leake, Jonathan, Google Earth showed protesters way to conquer parliament, The Sunday Times 2 March 2008, Accessed 8 March 2009
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  3. ^ Decca Aitkenhead The Guardian 31 May 2008 'Life in prison? Bring it on'
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  17. ^ Protesters invade airport taxiway, BBC News, 3 March 2009, Retrieved 2009-3-3
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External links

  • Plane Stupid's Joss Garman on Newsnight