Heathrow’s new terminal 5 opened on thursday, an event that British Airways and BAA hoped would provide a pr boost for further airport expansion. Instead, what has transpired is a “dreadful national embarrassment” of cancelled flights, baggage delays, and a gleaming new terminal that doesn’t seem to work. And all this aside from a mass flash mob protest against a third runway with several hundred people occupying the arrivals hall. Plane Stupid says that the airport was “so busy worrying about (the flash mob) that they forgot to hire any baggage handlers…” The Guardian says that “flights to Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Newcastle and Edinburgh were among those cancelled at Heathrow….it would be no bad thing if they never resumed.” Hear hear.
As for myself, I donned a red t-shirt, went along to add my voice to hundreds of others at the protest, and hung around for a couple of hours, having loud conversations about climate change and aviation in the coffee lounge (where the baristas were so supportive I even got an employee discount!!). I confronted some BAA directors after they were interviewed about the baggage delays asking them how they could live with themselves for promoting continued expansion in the face of climate change. They told me “the economic case has been made for ‘sustainable’ growth in the aviation industry.” I asked them how many pounds the life of a Bangladeshi family was worth. They didn’t seem to have a soundbite to respond to that one.
I gave my own soundbite to a couple of MSN reporters, who used my interview as part of their feature on the t5 opening. You must also check out the old ladies up in arms about the third runway, from CNN. Click on the “mob protests airport expansion link.”
With any luck, this debacle will make the government question the wisdom of allowing corporations like BA and BAA to dictate national transport policy. Gear up for the next protest on May 31st against Heathrow expansion, and the climate camp, which will consist of a huge caravan from Heathrow to Kings North to protest plans for the first new British coal fired power station in 23 years.