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Airport CEO Skips Own Conference

CEO of Bristol Airport, Dave Lees, failed to turn up to a scheduled speaking engagement yesterday at a conference on Green Tourism sponsored by the airport. 

The conference, organised by tourism body Visit West, would have been Lees’ first public appearance since the decision by government planning inspectors to allow the expansion of Bristol Airport to 12mn passengers a year. 

His decision to cancel was likely prompted by the presence of protesters from XR Bristol and Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) who held banners outside the venue and spoke to attendees as they arrived, In addition a samba band disrupted the conference by playing drums outside the venue, the Doubletree hotel on Redcliffe Way. 

Protesters are angry about the recent decision by government planning inspectors to allow the expansion of the airport to 12mn passengers a year which they say will result in an additional 1mn tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and lead to at least 267 deaths every year in Bristol. 

A livestream of the conference on Zoom was also disrupted by protesters holding placards and writing protest messages in the chat. 

A small group of activists had planned to enter the conference itself after applying for tickets using a leaked application form. However, their plan was rumbled by organisers and they were refused entry upon arrival. 

The airport is a key target of XR Bristol’s latest campaign Greenwash-free Bristol, in which the group targets companies they accuse of greenwash, or the practice of businesses and governments portraying themselves as caring for the planet whilst their actions are actively contributing to the escalating climate crisis.

Around 25 protesters were present in total and stayed from the conference start time of 9am (Monday, February 28) until 11am when it was clear that Lees would not be speaking.

Banner reads "Carbon Neutral Airport? A Plane Greenwash Lie!"
Protesters hold a banner outside the conference venue as attendees arrive. Image: James Ward.
Protesters hold banners and speak to conference attendees as they arrive. Image: James Ward.

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