Climate activists briefly disrupt air traffic in Geneva: airport

GENEVA, Switzerland - Protesters on the tarmac at Geneva airport briefly disrupted air traffic Tuesday before operations were gradually resumed, the airport said, as dozens of climate activists blocked a nearby business jet convention.

"Due to the incursion of people on the tarmac, the air traffic was momentarily disrupted. It has been gradually resuming since 12:40 pm (1040 GMT)," Geneva airport's official Twitter account said.

The notice came as environmental groups said around 100 climate activists from 17 countries had disrupted the next-door European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) -- Europe's biggest sales fair for private jets.

In a joint statement, Greenpeace, Stay Grounded, Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion said the activists were peacefully occupying jets exhibited for the event by Geneva airport.

Around a dozen police officers had rapidly intervened to remove the activists, including some that had attached themselves to planes, the ATS news agency said.

Geneva police spokeswoman Tiffany Cudre-Mauroux told AFP that around 80 people had been detained.

- 'Toxic' -

Images published on Twitter showed the activists camped out around shiny jets, brandishing colourful banners with the words "ban private jets" and "private jets burn our future".

They also plastered some planes with messages resembling warning labels on cigarette packages, identifying them as "toxic objects", according to the joint statement. 

"Geneva is home to one of the airports with the most private jet traffic in Europe," Joel Perret, spokesman for Extinction Rebellion Geneva, said in the statement.

"This is where change must begin: we need to drastically reduce aviation to halt climate catastrophe and the destruction of life. The first step is to ban private jets now!"

Klara Maria Schenk of Greenpeace said: "Sales of private jets are skyrocketing, and with them the one percent's hugely unfair contribution to the climate crisis -- while the most vulnerable people deal with the damage."

Geneva airport will file a complaint over the incident, spokesman Ignace Jeannerat told AFP.

He said dozens of activists had poured onto the tarmac shortly after 11:30 am Tuesday, after illegally sneaking in through the freight area, and had begun handcuffing themselves to jets on display.

Air traffic had been disrupted for an hour, he said, adding that seven planes had been unable to land at the airport during that time, and were forced to divert to Zurich and Lyon.

Major delays and possible cancellations were expected throughout the day.

Geneva's Cointrin airport is the second largest in Switzerland, after Zurich. 

In 2022, more than 14 million passengers travelled through the airport, according to official figures.