Briefing Sheets for Campaigners

Are you campaigning:

  • against a new runway or a new airport
  • end night flights to an end
  • to reduce the number of flights at your airport
  • or to get a better deal for communities under the flight paths 

This page contains some briefing sheets which may be useful to you.

There are 3 briefing sheets on:

  • Campaigning hints
  • Using the media
  • Alternatives to Air Travel

You can find a fourth briefing sheet: How to create fairer flights paths at

You can find a fifth briefing sheet:   The need to challenge people in power – including the use of direct action if necessary at 

For help with lobbying the European Union:


You may feel you are part of just a small group of people battling against the powerful aviation industry which may well have the support of your national, regional and local governments.

Here are some things you can do to campaign successfully:

1. Recruit as many local supporters as possible.  It can be difficult to persuade people to join you.  Many people may support your aims but they are not sufficiently disturbed by the noise or concerned about climate change to join you.  To make things even more difficult, many of those people who do join you are reluctant to become active supporters.  However, it is worthwhile making the effort to get supporters: the more you have, the greater the chance the authorities will take you seriously.  If there are only a few of you, they will ignore you.  Supporters can also provide you with some money to finance your activities, if they are asked to pay a small fee each year.

2. Make links with other organizations. This gives you more power and influence.  There are a number of different types of organizations you can make links with.  If you are a noise group, link up with climate campaigners.  If you are a climate group, make links with local people concerned about noise.  Link up also with other environmental groups in your area.  Also link up with other airport campaign groups in your country.  If you speak with them, you will be able to share information and learn from each other.  In some countries there are national ‘umbrella’ organizations of all the groups opposed to airport expansion and the growth of aviation.  If you are part of an umbrella group, it can give you more influence with the airport authorities and with your national and regional government.

To see how the UK ‘umbrella’ network, AirportWatch, operates (look at pages 6 and 7)

There will be national organizations in your country which are concerned about the environment or planning or social justice or housing or human rights.  If you link up with these national organizations, it can often give you a national voice.  They can also use their experience to help you with your lobbying and campaigning and are usually an excellent source of information.    You will not agree on everything.  It doesn’t matter.  Work together where you can.  Working together you are stronger and more likely to win.

3. Use a wide range of arguments.  Noise is usually the main concern of local residents.  Climate is what concerns many environmental activists.  However it is unlikely you can win by just making the noise or climate arguments on their own.  You will have more chance of success if you can use other arguments as well.   Don’t be afraid to challenge the aviation industry on its economic arguments.  And talk about alternatives such as the use of rail or video-conferencing.

4. Be active! Be in charge!  All authorities like to be in charge.  This includes the people running the airport or the local, regional and national governments.  If they speak to us, they want to do so on their own terms.  In order to succeed we must challenge them.  We can do this by publishing our own reports, organizing high-profile demonstrations, making links with other organizations and, if necessary, through civil disobedience.  Our aim should be to put the authorities under pressure.  It is only when people in power come under pressure that they will act.  They won’t give away their power!  We have to take it from them!

5. Consider employing a campaigner.  A lot of campaign groups cannot afford to pay a campaigner.  But the campaign will benefit if you can do so.  It means that the campaign does not need to rely entirely on volunteers who are often busy people with jobs to do and families to look after.  The ideal is to employ a full-time campaigner.  If that is not possible, try to find the money to employ a part-time campaigner.

If you want to influence the European Commission or the European Parliament, here are three useful websites:

Taming Aviation:  A European-wide Movement of Citizens aimed at Taming the Aviation Industry –

Transport & Environment (T & E):  It was started in 1990.  It has grown to become the principal environmental organization campaigning on sustainable transport at the EU level in Brussels –

European Environmental Bureau (EEB):  Created in 1974, the EEB is now Europe’s largest federation of environmental organisations with 140+ member organizations.  It works on many environmental issues –

see also Influencing the European Commission and Parliament in Brussels: 



Most local campaigns don’t have much money.  We can usually only afford posters and leaflets, but rarely billboards, advertising and glossy brochures.  Using the media to get our message across is therefore very important.  An invisible campaign will never win!

Here’s some hints:

HINT 1. The media will only cover our campaign if we have good stories to tell.

Here are examples of what will get media attention:

An eye-catching demonstration

Campaigners against Nantes International Airport in France


Direct Action: against Heathrow 3rd runway


Flashmob:  inside the airport in Paris

2009 - FLASH MOB 009

If it is colourful, creative or daring, the media will not ignore us because we are giving them a good story.   It doesn’t always need to be as spectacular as the events shown in the pictures above.   Most of the  time we will not to doing events like that but remember the media always need a good story.


Get to know the key journalists.  Find out who are the journalists who will cover your campaign at a local, regional and national level.  Speak to them on the phone.  Have coffee or lunch with them.

Keep the journalists informed of what is happening.  Email journalists on a regular basis.  They appreciate receiving the information even if they don’t always put in into the newspapers or on the radio or television.  But don’t send them too much detail.  They won’t read it.  They are busy people with deadlines to meet.  They will come back to you if they need more detail.

Concentrate on your local and regional media.  Don’t get too depressed if you rarely get coverage in the national media.  Remember, in order to get on the national media, a story must either be quite spectacular or have national significance.

Keep your message as simple as you can.  Have a few key messages which you repeat time and time again.  Remember the public and politicians are bombarded by information.  They’ll only hear one or two key points.

Avoid technical detail wherever possible.  Airport matters can be technical.  Explain them in a simple way as most readers don’t like technical detail and it can irritate journalists.

Make use of the letters page and phone-ins.   Local papers and radio stations often test the strength of public opinion on an issue by the numbers of letters and calls they receive.  Persuade your supporters to write letters and call phone-ins.  They can simply tell their personal stories, but also encourage them to use your key, simple messages.

Use the new media.  Make sure your campaign is on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep your website up-to-date.  Journalists very often use a campaign group’s website.  Make sure that, if you put out a press release, it is also on your website.  Use your website to comment on events on a day-to-day basis if you can.

Use ‘alternative’ media.  They are usually more radical than the mainstream media and are more sympathetic to campaigners.  Make contact with them.  Indymedia is one of the best known alternative media outlets –  It is found in most European countries.  But there will also be alternative media journals and newspapers in your country.  Don’t worry if you disagree with their politics.  They can be an important way of spreading news of your campaign.



Promoting alternatives means that you can run a positive campaign.

This briefing outlines the way rail and video-conferencing can be alternatives to some air trips.  We start with video-conferencing.


Travelling Light 2008

A report into the potential of video-conferencing as an alternative for many air journeys: Travelling Light .  The report looks at into the way British businesses are starting to use video-conferencing instead of flying.

Key findings

  • 62% of companies surveyed are already reducing their flying
  • A further 24% of companies are currently developing plans to do so.
  • 89% of companies expect they will want to fly less over the next 10 years.
  • 85% of companies say that videoconferencing can help them reduce their flying.
  • 89% of companies believe that videoconferencing can improve their productivity.

Link:   Travelling Light    pdf  


European flights diagramClick diagram to enlarge

The big majority of flights leaving airports in Europe go to other European destinations.  The chart above shows some of the key places in Europe.  According to EuroControl, 45% of air trips within Europe are 500 kilometres or less in length.  There is a lot of scope for people to switch to Europe’s high-speed rail network.

Distance, time and cost are key factors which influence the mode of travel a person chooses to make the journey.


under 150km – car or traditional rail are preferred;

150 – 400km – high speed rail wins out over air, but car still has around 70% of the market;

400 – 1200km – there is competition between high speed rail and air, with the fiercest competition at distances of between 400 and 800km;

over 1200km – general preference for air (All these figures from Milan Janic in Towards Sustainable Aviation, published by Earthscan 2003)


A lot of people will switch to rail if the train lasts no more than three hours, but some people will use the train for journeys of four-and-a-half hours.  The French railway, SNCF, has found that on journeys of less than four-and-a-half hours, where their trains compete with airlines, their share of the market is over 50%. This is backed up by other European rail companies, which are capturing more than 60% of the business market from airlines on four hour journeys.  Part of the reason for this is the reduced check-in times for train travel and the fact that it is much easier to work on the train.


 The price of a journey is more important for leisure travellers than for business people.  In some countries train travel is not expensive.  And sometimes it can be cheaper to take the train.  But, for many journeys, the train is more expensive than the budget flights.  These flights are cheap because there is no tax on aviation fuel and there is no VAT charged on tickets.  Higher air fares would encourage many more people to use the train.

Of course, high-speed rail is not problem-free.  It is very expensive to build.  There is the danger than governments will spend less on their local rail services in order to pay for high-speed rail.  A high-speed train is also noisy.  If a train came every few minutes it would begin to cause the same noise problems as aircraft.  And high-speed rail produces more climate change emissions than slower rail services.  But there is no doubt that high-speed rail can provide an alternative to many air journeys.

European rail(1)






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