Airport protests against expansion are breaking out across Germany

John Stewart, who has just returned from a trip to Germany to visit many of the groups actively involved in campaigning against new runways, writes about his trip. He says protests are breaking out across Germany, following the large and energetic protests by thousands of articulate and law-abiding citizens that have been taking place each Monday evening at Frankfurt. There will be a national day of action on Saturday 24th March, with protests at Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, Dusselforf and Cologne. The causes of the protests tend to differ from city to city but the scale and intensity of them has shocked the authorities.  They are being widely covered in the German media. Residents around Frankfurt’s new runway are particularly angry at the way they believe they were misled about the new flight paths and the noise of the planes. The big concern at Cologne and Leipzig appears to be night flights. At Munich a new runway is planned, and there is impressively organised opposition.

Airport protests:  Germany in Revolt

by John Stewart, Chair of HACAN and of AirportWatch


Protests against airport expansion are breaking out all over Germany.  On 24th March there will be a national day of action involving protests at Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, Dusseldorf and Cologne.  The causes of the protests tend to differ from city to city but the scale and intensity of them has shocked the authorities.  They are being widely covered in the German media.

The most spectacular protest is happening in Frankfurt.  Every Monday evening, since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the fourth runway in October, up to 5,000 local residents occupy the terminal in protest against the impacts of the new runway.  They are particularly angry at the way they believe they were misled about the new flight paths and the noise of the planes.  There is also real concern that a promised night flight ban (between midnight and 5am) might now not be introduced on a permanent basis.  I addressed the rally at the end of February.  Rarely, in over thirty years of campaigning, have I experienced such raw emotion.  At their special Saturday protests, they can get up to 20,000 people.

The airport and the regional government simply do not know what to do about the protests.  It is their worst nightmare:  thousands of law-abiding citizens descending upon the terminal at least once a week.  The authorities have employed Marson-Bursteller, the PR firm who has worked for dictators across the world, to try to counter the impact the demonstrators are having.  Marston-Bursteller have arranged for the fares of airport workers to be paid to attend rival demonstrations.

The big concern at Cologne and Leipzig appears to be night flights.  In Berlin thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest the new flight paths which are being introduced to serve a new out-of-town airport which has been built to replace a city centre airport.

It is maybe at Munich, though, where the expansion of German airports could come to a shuddering halt.  Munich could become the ‘German Heathrow’.  There is a fighting chance that the protesters against the proposed third runway at Munich could match the success of the campaigners who successfully defeated plans for a third runway at Heathrow.  If the Munich campaigners do triumph, it will reinforce the message sent out by the famous Heathrow victory that it has become increasingly difficult to build new runways or new airports anywhere in Europe.

At Munich the campaigners are putting together an impressive coalition involving climate activists, local residents, sympathetic politicians, environmental experts and academics.  They are challenging the woefully weak economic case for a third runway.  Also expect pro-active campaigning:  flashmobs, non-violent direct action, church-based candle-light processions, demonstrations and climate camps.

Munich is also showing the way forward by bringing together climate change and noise campaigners which, until now, hasn’t happened in Germany in the way it has done in the UK.

I believe the Munich campaigners can win.  But that will be some years off.  In the shorter-term, it seems likely that the authorities will need to give something to the protesters complaining about the noise from the airports.  If the campaigners can win significant victories, it will show once again just how powerful visible street protests can be.


see also

Munich could become a German Heathrow if local opposition manages to block 3rd runway plans

March 2, 2012     John Stewart and some other campaigners recently visited Germany, to see the current protests against airport expansion there. John has written about their visit. He says campaigners are getting organised to oppose the planned building of a new 3rd runway at Munich. The case for a new runway there is weak because the existing runways are nowhere near capacity, most of the flights from Munich are domestic so could transfer to rail, and there is very low unemployment in the area. Visiting Frankfurt, they attended one of the regular Monday evening protests. The movement there driven by the concern about climate change, have brought together a first-rate coalition of environmental activists, local residents, sympathetic politicians and academic experts. They are a considerable force to be reckoned with.    Click here to view full story…


Aircraft Noise demos from Frankfurt to Berlin. Thousands of German noise opponents protest in several cities

February 4, 2012

Protests at the airport in Frankfurt am Main.  Source: Reuters

There have been major protests at several German airports today, against aircraft noise, with whistles, drums and banners. There were about 20,000 protestors at Frankfurt protesting against noise from the new runway that opened in October. This was the largest protest at the airport since the opening . The police estimated the number of participants to 7,700, the organizers – a coalition of citizens’ groups against the airport expansion – spoke of 20,000 people. There were also demonstrations at Berlin, Leipzig, Munich and Dusseldorf.    Click here to view full story…


The anti noise protests continue in Germany with much debate on the noise impact of airport expansion

February 1, 2012

Several articles from German news websites, badly translated in to English, but giving a feeling of what is happening in Germany, and how the protests against the unexpectedly bad noise produced by the new Frankfurt airport runway, opened in October, are having an impact politically. The Germans, in their thousands (and these are articulate and purposeful Germans protesting) are not going to put up with the new noise intrusion into their lives, and especially not at night, whatever Fraport (the airport) and Lufthansa say about the night flights being essential for business. The benefits are far less than the social harm the night flights are doing, and the ability to quietly enjoy their homes without a flight path overhead is not something that the residents near Frankfurt airport are prepared to lose. Click here to view full story…


and more about the Frankfurt protest at  Frankfurt Airport