Revealed: The worst airport in the UK for delays

Plane parked at airport
Plane parked at airport

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

Departures from the West Sussex airport were an average of nearly 27 minutes behind schedule in 2023, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.

Passengers at the UK’s second-busiest airport were also delayed by an average of 27 minutes in 2022.

Yet punctuality improvements by other airports, most notably Birmingham and Manchester, have seen Gatwick topping the charts as the worst UK airport for flight delays in 2023.

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

Manchester airport came third in the 2023 rankings, with passengers being delayed by almost 22 minutes on average.

Belfast City (George Best) airport had the best performance, with a typical delay of 12-and-a-half minutes – a similar figure to Gatwick’s average delays in 2021.

Tim Johnson, the CAA director, said it is vital the aviation sector “focuses on resilience” ahead of the summer holiday period to “keep passenger disruption to a minimum”.

He added: “Where people do find themselves facing disruption, we want them to be well-informed about the duty of care that they are entitled to.”

Naomi Leach, deputy editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: “It’s clear from these latest figures that millions of passengers continued to experience unacceptably long hold-ups last year.

“This cannot be allowed to become the new normal.”

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.

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.

“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.”

Gatwick affected by staff shortages

The PA news agency’s analysis looked at all scheduled and chartered departures from the 22 UK commercial airports with at least 1,000 outbound flights last year. Cancellations were not included.

Gatwick was badly affected by air traffic control (ATC) staff shortages in 2023.

Ryanair called for the head of air traffic control company Nats to resign following around 130 flight cancellations caused by ATC staff shortages at the airport last summer.

An airline spokesman said in September: “It is clear that Nats CEO Martin Rolfe has taken no action to resolve these ATC staff shortages and should now do the right thing and step down as Nats CEO so that someone competent can do the job.”

Nats said at the time that it was working to tackle staff shortages and improve its performance.

Mr Rolfe remains in post as its chief executive.