Greta Thunberg
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. AFP / HENRY NICHOLLS

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined a protest on Saturday against an airport's expansion plans in Hampshire, England.

Hundreds of locals and climate activists organised a march to Farnborough Airport to protest its expansion plans and use of private jets. The airport, located southwest of London, wants to increase its maximum number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 annually. The airport mostly serves private jets.

The protesters have called for a complete ban on private jets, stating that these aircraft are up to 30 times more polluting than passenger airliners.

The demonstration was organised by the Extinction Rebellion Waverley and Borders and began in Farnborough town centre. Some protesters beat drums, while others lit pink smoke flares during their march to the airport.

"The fact that using private jets is both legally and socially allowed today in an escalating climate emergency is completely detached from reality," the BBC quoted Thunberg as saying.

"There are few examples that show us clearly how the rich elite is sacrificing present and future living conditions on this planet so they can maintain their extreme and violent lifestyles," she added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the airport claimed that the project will generate 950 jobs in the southeast of England. It further stated that it is amongst "only one of a small number of UK airports" under the Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme.

"The airport's environmental footprint is a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport, yet it serves as one of the largest employment sites in the region," they said.

It added: "We recognise the importance of continually reducing our environmental impact and we are only one of a small number of UK airports to have achieved level four-plus under the airport carbon accreditation programme."

The big picture:

The use of private jets has increased by 20 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic despite calls by climate activists to ban their use. The emissions from private jets have risen over 23 per cent, according to a new report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Patriotic Millionaires.

According to another study by the Transport & Environment campaign group, private jets are 14 times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger.

Earlier this year, an investigation by Greenpeace showed how big the private jet industry has become. Every six minutes, a private plane takes off in the UK, with appalling statistics showing a 75 per cent spike in the luxury means of travel in the country in a year.

No country in Europe has a bigger private jet trend than the UK, where 90,256 flights took off last year, emitting half a million tonnes of CO2.

Out of those flights, the majority were just a few short miles or between capital cities such as London and Paris, which are conveniently connected by speedy trains that produce a fraction of the emissions per passenger.

The UK's elite have often come under criticism for using private jets on their official visits instead of passenger planes.

Last year, King Charles III received criticism for taking a private jet instead of a train for his state visit to France on September 20.

The monarch and Queen Camilla boarded Titan Airways on a 2-year-old Airbus A321-200neo (LR) from Farnborough Airport to Paris Orly. It is the most fuel-efficient commercial jet available on the market and can fly between 180 and 230 passengers on a range of over 4,000 miles. The trip took only over an hour but still emitted 7.35 tonnes of carbon one-way.

Meanwhile, the Eurostar train service, which can take passengers from London to Paris via an undersea tunnel for two hours and 15 minutes, only releases around 4kg of carbon per passenger. King Charles III's jet ride produced 92 times as much carbon per passenger.