Former commercial airline pilot Todd Smith joined Extinction Rebellion's protest against Farnborough Airport's expansion last Saturday, January 27.

Smith, from aviation workers campaign group Safe Landing, led the march from Farnborough town centre to the airport gates alongside Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and members of the XR Waverley and Borders group who organised the protest event.

He has flown jets for well-known airlines such as Thomas Cook, and rose to prominence after joining XR and campaigning against the damage the aviation industry is inflicting on the planet.

The campaigner said: “Flying is the fastest way to fry the planet, and private jets are the most polluting way to fly.

“Surely it’s a no brainer to ban private jets and stop expanding these luxury airports in the midst of a climate crisis? 

“Survey after survey, as well as several citizens’ assemblies have shown this would be very popular and has widespread support from the general public.

“For most people, life has become more difficult. The cost of heating our homes, buying food and paying our bills has increased massively. So imagine looking out our windows to see yet more private jets flying billionaires around.

“Is this a fair society that we live in, or is there one set of rules for the majority, and another for the elites? Plans to expand the UK’s largest private jet airport seem to make this clear.”

He joined around 1,000 others at the protest against plans to increase Farnborough Airport's cap on flight from 50,000 to 70,000 per year.

The north Hampshire airport is used mostly by private jets, and says the uplift – including a doubling of allowed weekend flights – would meet demand for business trips.

But Extinction Rebellion has called for a total ban on private jets, which they say are up to 30 times more polluting than passenger airliners.

Saturday's action was the latest in a series of protests against the airport’s planning application, which seeks to more than double weekend flights and boost the use of heavier, more polluting private jets.