Booked your summer holiday? These are the worst UK airports for flight delays

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Amy Swales
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Flying anywhere for your summer holiday? If so, you may – like us – have totally abandoned last year’s cold hard reality in favour of some rather romantic notions of travel.

This year (you think to yourself while half-heartedly inspecting a shelf full of Soltan in Boots), this year you’ll get a grip on something called a capsule wardrobe. This year, you’ll have hand luggage full of refreshing face mists and the like. This year, you’ll somehow gain access to the hallowed first-class lounge and recline with a champagne while someone sorts your pedicure and feeds you grapes (that’s what happens in there, right?).

Somehow, you’ve totally forgotten that what really happens is you panic-buy a shedload of unsuitable clothing you definitely won’t wear, your hand luggage will consist of Revels and several electronic gadgets all wrapped up around each other, your face mist will definitely mist the face of the disgruntled passenger next to you and ahead of boarding, you’ll more than likely be found wandering the airport chuntering about delays, shelling out for last-minute travel insurance and being disappointed by an overpriced prepacked sandwich.

In fact, new analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data shows that last part is pretty likely (the delays, not the rest of it) as last summer, international flights from the UK were delayed by an average of 21 minutes – with one in five flights to popular destinations delayed by more than 30 minutes.

The BBC England report, looking at data from 25 UK airports, found that 38,000 of 199,000 international flights between June and September 2016 were delayed.

And the worst airports for delays? London – Gatwick, Luton and Stansted all appeared in the top 10. Gatwick topped the list with 30% of flights delayed for longer than half an hour. That’s 107,825 flights.

Belfast International and Luton came joint second, with 23% of flights delayed for longer than 30 minutes, followed by Jersey, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with 21%, 19% and 17% respectively.

And delays across all airports were most likely in June (at least the month’s nearly over, eh).

The data does not cover flights that were cancelled.

While most of the routes with the delays were to European countries, the worst route for keeping passengers waiting was found to be Heathrow to Accra, Ghana, with 70% of flights subject to delays of more than 30 minutes.

A spokesman for Gatwick told the BBC that strike action and “heavily congested airspace” above the capital was to blame: “[These factors] have led to a significant increase in the number of delays caused by wider air traffic control issues outside Gatwick's control.

“Gatwick has more flights to Europe than any UK airport and is impacted disproportionately by events on the continent.”

Oh well, take heart from the fact the average unscheduled wait is a mere 21 minutes, easily whiled away with a podcast – compared to the longest delay of almost 13 hours, recorded last September for a flight from Manchester to Dusseldorf.

See the full list here.

While you can’t control how long your flight is delayed for – and to be fair, you probably won’t be changing the airport you fly from due to geographical/financial reasons – we can help you with what to pack, which podcasts to download and tips for cheaper holidays in the first place. So y’know, you’ve got extra cash to entertain yourself with at the airport…

Images: iStock


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.