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Vienna Third Runway Airport Expansion, Austria

Planned expansion of Vienna International Airport with a third runway. Opposed by local citizens' initiatives as well as climate justice group, and to a lesser extend environmental NGOs. Groundbreaking judicial decision has been turned over.


The third runway at Vienna Airport would be Austria’s worst climate-wrecking infrastructure project, turning Vienna into a central airport hub. The plans date back to 1998, and ever since local residents oppose to the expansion, which would effect thousands of people with noise and health problems. The airport legitimizes the expansion by stating that the two runways will soon reach its capacity limits, and that Vienna needs to compete with other airports (like Munich, Bratislava). In 2007, the Flughafen Wien AG – as applicant for the project of a third runway at Vienna International Airport – published their environmental impact statement. It received more than 1000 objections from neighbours and citizens’ initiatives. Still, in early 2012, the provincial government of Lower Austria ruled in favour of the airport’s expansion. Neighbours and citizens’ initiatives appealed to the “Umweltsenat” and later to the Federal Administrative Court. In February 2017, the Austrian Federal Administrative Court came to the conclusion that building a third runway in Vienna would lead to too many greenhouse gas emissions and would destroy too much agricultural land. This was a great victory which also had to do with the long resistance against the airport – on a legal as well as public pressure level. In October 2016, the climate justice group "System Change, not Climate Change!" had organized an action at the airport, at the same time while "Stay Grounded" actions at airports around the world were taking place. But already few months after the landmark decision, end of June 2017, the higher constitutional court ruled that the decision was wrong and unconstitutional. This was the basis for a new decision by the Federal Administrative Court which gave permission to the airport expansion in March 2018. Citizens' initiatives called for a revision again and a final decision is not expected before 2020. Resistance against the project continues.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Vienna Third Runway Airport Expansion, Austria
State or province:Lower Austria
Location of conflict:Schwechat
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:661
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectnot known, but estimates range between 1 and several billion USD
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:500,000
Start of the conflict:01/04/1998
Company names or state enterprises:Flughafen Wien AG from Austria - Airport Company
Relevant government actors:Österreichische Volkspartei (Conservatives), Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (right-wing), Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (Social Democrats)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:System Change, not Climate Change!,
AFLG Antifluglärmgemeinschaft,
BürgerInnen für Transparenz, Kostenwahrheit und Nachhaltigkeit in der Luftfahrt,
BI Liesing gegen Fluglärm und die dritte Piste,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Land dispossession
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Instead of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure like this airport, there is need of a climate just form of mobility. Shifting short and medium haul flights to the railway; changing patterns of travel, work and holidays; elimination of the privileges of the aviation industry and introduction of a kerosene tax
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Until now, the planned expansion has not been hindered.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Summary of the groundbreaking court decision by GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria)
[click to view]

Press release from the Constitutional Court (June 2017) that ruled the former court decision unconstitutional
[click to view]

Groundbreaking decision of the Federal Administration Court, February 2017 (in German)
[click to view]

Professional translation of the groundbreaking Austrian Federal Administration court decision’s most important part (the last 21 pages) from February 2017
[click to view]

Website of project opposition (German)
[click to view]

Website of project opposition (German)
[click to view]

Airport's description of the Third Runway
[click to view]

System Change, not Climate Change! German articles on the history and impacts of the third runway
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Rote Line für Flugwachstum: Stopp dritte Piste 2017
[click to view]

Dritte Piste Wien-Schwechat - ein Erfolgsprojekt?
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Manuel Grebenjak, System Change not Climate Change!, [email protected] // Magdalena Heuwieser, Stay Grounded, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3509
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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