Worst UK airports for flight delays revealed

The UK's 24 airports have been rated on punctuality of departures in 2021

Queues at Birmingham Airport in May. Photo: Tim Hutchinson
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Birmingham Airport was the worst in the UK for flight delays last year, analysis shows.

Flights were an average of 12 minutes and 24 seconds late taking off from the West Midlands airport in 2021, Civil Aviation Authority data seen by PA showed.

Southampton Airport was the second poorest for punctuality, followed by Heathrow, Exeter and Aberdeen airports.

The ranking takes into account all scheduled and chartered departures. Cancelled flights are not included.

Birmingham Airport said many of its delayed departures were able to make up time in the air because of the huge reduction in flight numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year was a dark time for aviation when Birmingham Airport was reduced to just 25 per cent of normal resources and capacity due to Covid," a spokesman said.

Birmingham is the UK’s seventh busiest airport, serving long-haul destinations including Dubai, Mexico, the Caribbean and the US, as well as more than 100 short-haul routes.

It hosts bases for airlines such as Jet2.com, Ryanair and Tui Airways.

The BBC recently reported that the annual wage of the airport’s chief executive Nick Barton rose by 49 per cent from £399,000 ($479,812) to £595,000 last year.

This angered trade unions after widespread job cuts because of the pandemic but the airport, which is part-owned by several of the region’s councils, insisted its senior management was paid in line with market rates.

The airport was used by 12.6 million passengers in 2019, before the pandemic, but just 2.5 million last year.

Punctuality across all UK airports in 2021 was better than before the virus crisis, because of the reduction in flights caused by travel restrictions.

Jo Rhodes, an expert for consumer magazine Which? Travel, said 2022 “has been a different story entirely” as the sector is struggling to cope with the surge in passenger numbers.

“Holidaymakers have endured wide-scale flight cancellations as well as unacceptably long queues at check-in, bag drop and airport security," Ms Rhodes said.

“The government must take action to restore consumer confidence in travel.

“That should involve stronger powers for the CAA, including the ability to fine airlines directly when they break the law.

“Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for delayed or cancelled domestic flights.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps published a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption last month.

This included encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule is “deliverable”, an amnesty on airport slot rules and allowing new aviation workers to begin training before passing security checks.

The government is analysing feedback after consulting on reforms such as increasing the CAA’s enforcement powers and amending compensation rules for domestic flights.

Airlines such as British Airways and easyJet have cancelled thousands of flights in recent weeks amid fears that chaotic scenes at airports will return during the peak school holiday season.

Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland have already broken up for summer, while the academic year for those in England and Wales ends in about two weeks.

Full ranking of UK airports based on flight punctuality in 2021

Airports are ordered from the longest average delay for flights to the shortest.

1. Birmingham (12 minutes and 24 seconds)

2. Southampton (12 minutes)

3. Heathrow (11 minutes and 48 seconds)

4. Exeter (11 minutes and 12 seconds)

5. Aberdeen (10 minutes and 36 seconds)

6. Doncaster Sheffield (10 minutes and 18 seconds)

7. Luton (nine minutes and 42 seconds)

8. Manchester (nine minutes and 30 seconds)

9. Glasgow (eight minutes and 30 seconds)

10. Leeds Bradford (seven minutes and 42 seconds)

11. Newcastle (seven minutes and 24 seconds)

12. Bournemouth (seven minutes and 18 seconds)

13. Edinburgh (seven minutes and 12 seconds)

14. Liverpool (John Lennon) (seven minutes and six seconds)

15. Cardiff (six minutes and 48 seconds)

16. London City (six minutes and 12 seconds)

17. Bristol (six minutes and six seconds)

18. Stansted (six minutes)

19. East Midlands International (six minutes)

20. Gatwick (five minutes and 54 seconds)

21. Belfast City (George Best) (four minutes and 54 seconds)

22. Teesside International (four minutes and 48 seconds)

23. Belfast International (four minutes and 30 seconds)

24. Southend (two minutes and 48 seconds)

Updated: July 11, 2022, 9:06 AM
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