Paris Orly’s Reopening Disrupted As Activists Storm The Airport

Paris Orly airport has reopened for business today, as several airlines returned to operations. However, the celebratory day was marred by a brief disruption, as activists representing the Extinction Rebellion group broke into the runway and stopped flights from taking off for around half an hour.

Paris Orly Transavia
The first flight to leave, a Transavia service to Porto, received a water cannon salute. Photo: Getty Images

Paris Orly is back in business

Paris Orly has reopened for business following three months of shutdown. The first flight to take off from the Parisian airport was a Transavia service to Porto in Portugal. The aircraft received a water cannon salute as it taxied towards the runway.

Also flying to and from Orly today were Air France, Air Corsica, Wizz, and French Bee. Over the course of the day, the airport will see around 70 takeoffs and landings, linking it with 25 destinations. It’s a far cry from the 600+ movements a day seen pre-crisis but is a step in the right direction.

However, what should have been a day of celebrations for the airport ended up being marred by unexpected disruption from aviation’s biggest opponent group – Extinction Rebellion.

 XR arrive to disrupt proceedings

Air-Journal has shared some details of the events, saying that around 20 people managed to break into the airport this morning, at around 10 am. These members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) accessed the runway by damaging a fence, according to the report, and proceeded to hoist banners in front of aircraft demanding to “save the Earth, not planes” and protesting “15 billion to relaunch the disaster.”

The monetary amount refers to the €15bn pledged by the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire earlier this week, which will be geared to support the aeronautical industry in the post-COVID environment. A portion of this is earmarked to be going towards the development of a carbon-free plane of the future.

MSN News France claims it was more like 30 protesters. However, both sources say that the disruption was only for a short period, with a dozen vehicles of the gendarmerie intervening to break up the demonstration at around 10:35.

Around 15 protesters are now reported to be in police custody. Simple Flying has reached out to Aeroports de Paris, the management company overseeing Orly, regarding the incident and will update with comment once it is received.

Not the first XR disruption

Born in the UK in 2018, the XR group has spread across Europe. Although it campaigns on a number of environmental issues, aviation is frequently on the receiving end of its protests.

Last May, the group threatened a drone protest at London Heathrow, although nothing ever came of it. In October, activists undertook a day of disruption at London City airport, including climbing on top of a British Airways plane. And in February, the group targeted Flybe’s Exeter, UK, home, just weeks before the airline collapsed.

In regard to Paris Orly, the group appears to be protesting the resumption, in particular, of domestic flights. Calling the operation ‘Firebird’, the group issued a press release saying,

“The government is trying to make a … ban of some domestic flights but – at the same time – it finances to blow billions of public money on the revival of the aeronautical industry. What is the logic?”

What do you think about the XR protest? Have you flown from Orly today? Let us know in the comments.