British climate change activists will fly toy drones at London’s Heathrow airport from September 13, a step likely to ground flights, to pressure government to take tougher steps to reduce carbon emissions.
The planned action could add to travel chaos at Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport with strike action by British Airways pilots also planned.
The Heathrow Pause group said it would fly toy drones within the restricted zone but outside flight paths, a step the group said would force the airport to ground flights.
“This is a symbolic action, using a legal loophole and participants’ self-sacrifice to draw attention to the most serious and urgent crisis humanity has ever faced,” the group said.
“Government’s inaction on climate change and the looming catastrophe of airport expansion gives us no choice and compels us to act,” it said.
Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion which disrupted London with high profile action this year, would fly drones at no higher than head level and give the airport an hour’s advance notice.
The airport said the plan was illegal and counter-productive.
“We agree with the need to act on climate change. This is a global issue requiring constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offences and disrupting passengers is counter-productive,” a spokesman for Heathrow said.
“Flying drones within five km of an airfield is illegal because it carries risk. We will work closely with the Met Police and other authorities to manage and mitigate any impacts.”
Heathrow Pause said: “All participants flying drones know they risk arrest and imprisonment and are prepared to be arrested peacefully.”
An Extinction Rebellion plan to disrupt Heathrow with drones during the peak summer season was shelved.
Heathrow had 80 million passengers in 2018 and is set to get bigger, with a third runway approved by lawmakers last year. The expansion faces legal challenges from environmental groups.
The airport already faces disruption next month with British Airways pilots set to strike on September 9-10 and 27. Britain’s aviation regulator asked the airline to explain how it handled customer rebooking after complaints.
The airline said talks with Britain’s BALPA pilots union were underway.