Flight delays: One in four plane arrivals are late, Which? survey finds

Survey finds easyJet least punctual UK airline, with Flybe the most on time

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 20 May 2017 08:35 BST
Time watch: easyJet Airbus A320 taxiing at the airline's main base, Gatwick
Time watch: easyJet Airbus A320 taxiing at the airline's main base, Gatwick

One in three easyJet flights arrived at least 15 minutes late last year, according to Which? magazine.

Researchers analysed Civil Aviation Authority figures and concluded only 66 per cent of arrivals on Britain’s biggest budget airline met the industry definition of “on time”, which allows for a quarter-hour delay.

The data covered more than 850,000 flights last year to 25 UK airports, on 35 airlines — eight of them British. Only 74 per cent of flights were regarded as on time, meaning one in four arrived late.

British Airways was on the industry average, but Thomson (68 per cent), Jet2 (71), Monarch and Thomas Cook (both 72) were all below it.

The only UK carriers to perform better than average were Virgin Atlantic (79 per cent) and Flybe (82).

Flybe flies mainly to and from UK regional airports, which are far less congested than Heathrow and Gatwick - the main bases for BA and easyJet respectively. But most of Virgin Atlantic's flights are to and from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Richard Headland, editor of Which? magazine, said: “Flight delays are one of the most annoying things about travelling. These figures show just how frequently flights fail to reach their destination on time.”

A spokesperson for easyJet told The Independent: "easyJet operates the largest number of flights per year of any UK airline and operates in the busiest airports and most congested airspace in Europe.

“Our own data shows easyJet’s network punctuality was 76 per cent in 2016 and is at 80 per cent for 2017.

"We have a continuous focus on punctuality as we know it is important to our customers."

Top of the table overall was the Dutch airline KLM with 88 per cent on time. Qatar Airways (86) and Iberia (84) took the next two places

The three worst-performers overall offer budget transatlantic flights: Norwegian (60 per cent), Icelandair (56) and Air Transat of Canada (55).

A spokesperson for Air Transat said:“The statistics in this report do not take into account the delays caused by factors beyond our control such as weather and air traffic control. When these factors are excluded, our punctuality rate is in fact 78 per cent.”

World's largest aircraft takes off

Europe’s biggest budget airline, Ryanair, did slightly better than average, with a score of 77 per cent.

A BA spokesperson said: “These figures confirm our own findings that, our short-haul punctuality is significantly better than that of our biggest short-haul rivals. And unlike Ryanair, we fly between primary airports where aircraft congestion can increase potential for delays.”

BA’s partners in the IAG stable of airlines had widely varying rates. While Iberia and Aer Lingus scored 84 and 82 respectively, the low-cost airline Vueling rated only 65 per cent.

Among the global giant airlines, Delta Airlines did best with 81 per cent on time. United was slightly better than average at 75, while American Airlines and Emirates scored only 67 per cent — meaning one in three flights arrives 15 minutes or more late.

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