Home » UK’s best and worst airports for delays revealed

UK’s best and worst airports for delays revealed

London Gatwick was the worst airport for UK flight delays last year, analysis has found.

Departures from the airport, which is the second busiest in the UK, were an average of almost 27 minutes behind schedule in 2023, according to a Press Association study of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.

Gatwick was badly affected by air traffic control staff shortages across Europe last year, and repeatedly suffered the same problem in its own control tower.

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The airport has said in a statement it is “working closely with our airline partners to improve on-time performance”.

Luton had the second poorest punctuality record last year, with an average delay of almost 23 minutes.

The airport has said the average delay figures are “not helpful” without context and insists the vast majority of its flights left on time – claiming that most delays were due to factors out of its control.

In third place was Manchester, with an average delay of nearly 22 minutes.

Belfast City had the best performance, with a typical delay of 12-and-a-half minutes.

Liverpool John Lennon was second best with an average delay of 13 minutes and 24 seconds, while East Midlands was next with an average wait of 15 minutes and 18 seconds.

The average delay for flights across all airports was almost 20 minutes and 42 seconds – down from 23 minutes and 12 seconds in 2022, when the aviation sector struggled to cope with a surge in demand for holidays following the end of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Departures from Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, were typically delayed by 20 minutes last year.

The analysis took into account all scheduled and chartered departures from the 22 commercial UK airports with at least 1,000 outbound flights last year. Cancellations were not included.

The full ranking of UK airports based on worst average delay

1: Gatwick (26 minutes and 54 seconds)

2: Luton (22 minutes and 54 seconds)

3: Manchester (21 minutes and 54 seconds)

4: Edinburgh (21 minutes and 48 seconds)

5: Birmingham (21 minutes and 30 seconds)

6: Bristol (20 minutes and 24 seconds)

Joint 6th: Bournemouth (20 minutes and 24 seconds)

8: Heathrow (20 minutes)

9: Newcastle (19 minutes and 48 seconds)

10: Belfast International (19 minutes and 18 seconds)

11: Stansted (19 minutes and six seconds)

12: Aberdeen (17 minutes and 42 seconds)

13: Southampton (17 minutes and six seconds)

14: Leeds Bradford (16 minutes and 54 seconds)

Joint 14th: Cardiff Wales (16 minutes and 54 seconds)

16: Teesside International Airport (16 minutes and 48 seconds)

17: Glasgow (16 minutes and 36 seconds)

18: Exeter (15 minutes and 42 seconds)

19: London City (15 minutes and 36 seconds)

20: East Midlands International (15 minutes and 18 seconds)

21: Liverpool (John Lennon) (13 minutes and 24 seconds)

22: Belfast City (George Best) (12 minutes and 30 seconds)

Gatwick said in a statement: “As the most efficient single runway airport in the world, we aim to deliver a seamless passenger experience.

“The majority of cancellations are caused by poor weather, airspace constraints across Europe and inefficient third party ground operations.

“We are working closely with our airline partners to improve on-time performance.

“In addition, we have published a six-year capital investment programme setting out significant improvements to develop and enhance infrastructure and facilities to build the resilience of the airport.”

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Gatwick imposed a temporary cap on flights in September 2023 in an attempt to reduce the number of short-notice cancellations and delays due to staff shortages in its ATC tower.

A Luton Airport spokesperson said: “Without context, these figures are not helpful to passengers. In 2023, the vast majority of flights from London Luton Airport departed on time and, out of 50,402 departing commercial flights, just 163 (0.3%) were delayed due to factors within our direct control, rather than external factors such as weather, air traffic restrictions and the late arrival of an aircraft.”

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A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “This analysis ignores important context. Punctuality can be affected by a number of factors, most of which are outside of an airport’s control. The two most significant factors contributing to delays in the last year have been industrial action affecting air traffic control in Europe and the weather.

“Last month 79.8% of flights from Manchester Airport took off on time, comfortably above the national average of 67%.

“As an industry we are working collectively to achieve the best possible on-time departure rates, while protecting flight schedules and avoiding the need for cancellations.”

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What are your rights when flights are delayed?

When flights are significantly delayed or cancelled, airlines are required under consumer laws to provide passengers with assistance such as refreshments, a means of communication and overnight accommodation if required.

If the cause of disruption is under an airline’s control, passengers are also due compensation of up to £520 depending on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight.

But air traffic control (ATC) issues are generally considered to be an “extraordinary circumstance”, meaning affected passengers are not entitled to payouts.