The man, identified by Extinction Rebellion as former Paralympic cyclist James Brown, was seen clinging to the aircraft in a video streamed online by the protest group. Brown, who is visually impaired, was arrested at Heathrow last month after a protest which saw some Extinction Rebellion activists try to fly a drone near the airport. The 54-year-old, who won a bronze medal at London 2012, glued himself to the top of a British Airways Embraer 190 jet.
“Here I am on top of a f****** airplane at City Airport. I hate heights, I’m s******* myself, I managed to get on the roof. I am so shaky,” he said in a Facebook video.
“This is all about the climate and ecological crisis, we’re protesting against government inaction on climate and ecological breakdown. They declare a climate emergency and then do nothing about it.
“In fact they go the opposite direction, they sanction the expansion of airports, Heathrow, Bristol and others. We can’t let this go on, we can’t have our cake and eat it.”
He later noticed security were approaching and said, “Oh good security are coming. I hope they don’t take too long because this is f****** scary.”
He was eventually removed. A spokeswoman for British Airways said, “We are investigating what happened as a matter of urgency.” Meanwhile another protester managed to ground a flight from London City Airport to Dublin today — to the fury of the passengers on board. The Aer Lingus flight this morning was on the runway and about to take off when a smartly dressed man stood up and gave a lecture on climate change.
Filming himself on his phone, the man said, “I don’t wish to travel with you, but I don’t wish to get off. I’m extremely sorry for the inconvenience.”
Furious passengers responded saying, “You’re not sorry at all.” As their flight was held up, travelers pleaded with crew to remove the bespectacled man from the plane.
Continuing to address those on board, the man said, “We have two generations of human civilization left if we carry on doing what we are doing.”
Another passenger then asked him, “Why are you filming yourself?”
The man was later seen being led away from the aircraft by police officers. The flight, scheduled to depart at 9.40am, was delayed by 10 minutes.
Passenger Warren Swalbe tweeted, “Just about to take from London City airport. Our flight was infiltrated by a climate change protester.”
Nicholas Watt, the political editor of BBC Newsnight, wrote, “My flight from London City airport to Dublin has just been grounded by a climate change protester. On runway and about to take off when smartly dressed man in late middle age stood up with iPhone to deliver lecture on climate change up and down aisle.
“Cabin crew calmly and very politely asked protester to resume his seat. Politely but persistently he declined and proceeded to deliver his lecture on climate change in aisle. Plane was at the end of runway. So the pilot taxied back to gate where plane was met by throng of police. They came on board and escorted the protester off the plane.
“The final irony of the climate protest on our flight. We cannot take off until we have taken on extra fuel … to replace the fuel used up during the protest, our pilot notes with humor.”
Aer Lingus said the passenger was removed “due to disruptive behavior on board” and a full security check of the aircraft was completed before the plane departed.
The climate change group started their three-day “Hong Kong-style” shut down of London City Airport this morning, gluing themselves to the terminal building and dancing on a roof — but ultimately failing to cancel flights.
The latest protest is against the climate impact of flying and the government’s ongoing support of airport expansion. Hundreds of environmentalists attempted to block the entrance to the airport from the DLR by sitting together on the ground and singing “Fly today, gone tomorrow”.
Activist Phil Kingston, 83, was among those arrested — the third time he has been arrested as part of Extinction Rebellion protests in the past week.
Protesters were seen being dragged out the airport by officers after failing to break through security into the terminal. One was heard saying, “Please stop you’re hurting me.”
One activist climbed onto part of the roof of the terminal building where he was cheered by fellow protesters. Standing on the roof, he bellowed down, “Shut the airport down! Rebellion!”
He then danced on the roof as a live band played clarinet music below.
Those arriving for flights were redirected to a second terminal entrance by security workers and were not allowed to enter the building without showing their boarding cards first.
Taxi driver Jason Lempiere said that the protests had disrupted his work in and around the city. “It’s disturbing everyone’s everyday life — working, travel in and out of the airport. Yeah, have a voice, but not disrupt people’s lives like this,” he said.