The consumer magazine described the check-in at Heathrow's Terminal 2 as 'bunker-like with a claustrophobic low roof', Terminal 1 was 'simply too busy to be pleasant', and Gatwick's North Terminal was 'scrum-like'.
Luton, Cardiff and Newcastle received the most criticism. Luton's departure lounge was 'dated', the green carpet and yellow walls 'redolent of the Seventies'.
Cardiff airport was 'showing its age', with a 'shabby and garish' restaurant and a 'claustrophobic and gloomy' departure lounge. The panel advised: stay on the 'land- side' as long as possible. At Newcastle, building work made the check-in desk 'cramped, noisy and dusty'.
The survey of 13 airports rated facilities for the holiday-maker 'heading abroad'. It took in food, shops, financial facilities, the comfort and atmosphere of lounges, and parking and public transport.
The major city airports were generally praised as 'light and airy' with 'as many shops and restaurants as a town's shopping precinct'. The top six - Heathrow 4, Gatwick North, Manchester 2, Glasgow, Birmingham 1 and Stansted - were commended for their tasteful interiors, luxury shopping, restaurants and cafes and 'pleasant atmosphere'.
The smaller, regional airports, many owned by local authorities, tended to be overcrowded and old- fashioned, although long-term parking rates were usually cheaper. Fourteen days of car space at Heathrow cost pounds 98, compared with pounds 16 in Belfast.