UK's worst airports for flight delays revealed as Heathrow warns of more cancellations

11 July 2022, 09:43 | Updated: 11 July 2022, 09:52

Passengers sleeping in Birmingham Airport and baggage chaos at Heathrow.
Passengers sleeping in Birmingham Airport and baggage chaos at Heathrow. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The UK's worst airports for flight delays have been revealed as the industry continues to be plagued with cancellations.

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Birmingham was named the UK's worst airport for flight delays last year, with planes taking off an average of 12 minutes and 24 seconds late.

According to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, Southampton Airport had the second poorest record, closely followed by Heathrow, which has been forced to cancel thousands of flights due to high passenger numbers.

Exeter and Aberdeen airports were next on the ranking, which takes into account all scheduled and chartered departures.

Cancelled flights were not included in the investigation carried out by PA.

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

A spokesman said: "Last year was a dark time for aviation when Birmingham Airport was reduced to just 25% of normal resource and capacity due to Covid.

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Airline passengers deal with lengthy queues at Bristol airport

"Due to the unique operating environment caused by massive air traffic reductions, the usual pressures did not exist, so flights taking off late were able to catch up en route."

It was recently reported the annual wage of the airport's chief executive, Nick Barton, rose by 49% from £399,000 to £595,000 last year.

The near 50% increase enraged trade unions as it came after hundreds of jobs were axed as the airport tried to recover from the covid pandemic.

However, the airport insisted its senior management is paid in line with market rates.

There has been travel chaos at a number of UK airports in recent months, including London's Heathrow, which has faced technical malfunctions and high passenger numbers.

Now Heathrow has warned it will ask airlines to cancel more flights this summer if it does not believe previous schedule reductions will sufficiently reduce disruption.

Carriers were ordered by the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority last month to make sure their timetables are "deliverable" after the sector was unable to cope with demand during the Platinum Jubilee half-term school holiday period.

The punctuality of arriving flights is "very low" and there have been "periods in recent weeks where service levels have not been acceptable", Heathrow admitted.

Problems include "long queue times, delays for passengers with reduced mobility (and) bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late", according to the airport.

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The bags at Heathrow Airport.
The bags at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Stuart Dempster

Punctuality across all UK airports in 2021 was better than before the virus crisis, due to 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 spike in passenger numbers.

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

This included encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule are "deliverable", an amnesty on airport slot rules and permitting 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.

Queues at Heathrow airport earlier this month.
Queues at Heathrow airport earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

Full ranking of UK airports based on flight punctuality in 2021

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)

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