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The Best And Worst Airports In The UK

Charlie Mullan for Bookies.com

Charlie Mullan  | 5 mins

The Best And Worst Airports In The UK

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Christmas is fast approaching, and travel plans are being made as to where families will spend the holidays. For some, those travel plans will require flights either domestically or internationally to spend the festive period in warmer climes.

It makes more sense to hop on a plane to get from one end of the country to another given the number of delays on roads in the UK. So which airports are the least reliable when it comes to flights being cancelled and delayed?

At Bookies.com, we have analysed the flight data from the Civil Aviation Authority, which controls all the UK airports, to find out which airport cancelled the most flights from the first day of 2023 to the last day of September, and which experienced the longest delays in flights taking off. 

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Greater Chance of Cancellation at London City Airport

If you regularly use London City Airport to fly from, there is a chance you'll have experienced the frustration of a flight cancellation. The airport, the smallest of the five major airports based in the English capital, has seen more flight cancellations than any other airport in the UK. 

London City Airport had 37,772 flights take off between 1 January and 30 September, and for one reason or another, 1,410 (3.73%) had to be cancelled to the frustration of passengers. It's an improvement on data for December 2022 when 309 (7.83%) of the 3,942 scheduled flights had to be cancelled.

Next on the naughty list for this year's data is Belfast City Airport, where 794 (3.66%) of the 21,715 scheduled flights were cancelled. Like London City Airport, which has four nearby airports to travel from, those dealing with a flight cancellation at Belfast City Airport, or George Best Airport as it is officially called, could look to find an alternative flight from Belfast International Airport, which is just 21 miles down the M2. 

Third on the list for highest percentage of cancelled flights this year, is Southampton Airport. The south coast airport is much smaller than the others in this study with just 13,501 flights scheduled in the first nine months of the year. A total of 391 (2.9%) remained grounded and had to be cancelled. 

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Stansted Efficiency Serves Passengers Well

Stansted Airport is the third busiest airport in terms of flights scheduled in our study, and it was one of the most efficient in the UK. From 1 January to 30 September, a total of 135,776 flights were scheduled to take off from Stansted and to their credit, only 858 (0.63%) had to be cancelled. 

That is testament to the staff for ensuring the majority of the planes took flight. The airport, which serves over 160 destinations across the world, ranks third in terms of efficiency.

The most efficient UK airport in our study was Bournemouth Airport on the south coast. Of the 20 airports included, Bournemouth is the smallest with just 4,581 flights taking off between 1 January and 30 September. Incredibly, only four (0.09%) were forced to be cancelled, and they came in August when a technical issue affected the UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) flight planning system, which forced thousands of flights to be delayed or cancelled around the country. No flights had to be cancelled in the other eight months.

The second most efficient airport in the UK is East Midlands Airport, which is an international airport that offers an alternative to Birmingham Airport, located just 36 miles away.

East Midlands Airport had 37,904 flights scheduled from the first day of 2023 to the last day of September and only 148 (0.39%) had cancelled next to their flight number on the departures board. 

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Bring A Book If You're Flying From Gatwick

We're told to get to the airport in plenty of time to avoid delays, which most of us adhere to. So when we stick to this rule, one of the biggest frustrations is to find out the flight you've turned up two hours early for has been delayed. 

So which airports are you most likely to be delayed at? At Bookies.com, we've got you covered. 

Gatwick has officially been the worst UK airport for delays in 2023. Passengers were still on the ground for an average of 26 minutes when flying from the UK's second most popular airport. Plenty of time to read a book. 

While we praised Bournemouth earlier in this article for its efficiency in having the fewest flights cancelled, it appears that comes at a cost. Bournemouth is second on the list of delays with passengers experiencing an average delay of 23 minutes.

Third on the list of shame is also an airport in the south of England. Luton Airport is the fourth biggest airport in or around London and therefore attracts its fair share of passengers flying to its busiest routes like Bucharest, Amsterdam and Malaga. In the first nine months of this year, passengers using Luton Airport were delayed by an average of 22 minutes. 

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We've established that you're more likely to have your flight cancelled at London City Airport and Belfast City Airport, but while that is negative news, the positive news for these two airports is that delays are shorter there than anywhere else. 

Delays at the City airports in London and Belfast in the period of our study average just 13 minutes, exactly half the time in which Gatwick passengers have to put up with. 

Next on the delays list is Liverpool Airport. Delays flying from John Lennon Airport, to give it its proper name, have been kept to an average of 14 minutes. Delays are common at airports across the world, but as long as those delays are kept to a minimum, then passengers will be prepared to put up with them.

About the Author

Charlie Mullan for Bookies.com
Charlie Mullan
UK-based stats man Charlie Mullan brings previous expertise from the Press Association, DraftKings, Betfair, SportPesa, Hull Daily Mail and more where he has crunched soccer data for many seasons, creating content to support odds providers and market makers in the European betting industry. Charlie has more than a decade of experience using in-depth stats to make informed picks across the biggest games in the EPL and European soccer leagues.