The UK’s busiest airport terminals revealed

Exclusive: If you agree with Jean-Paul Sartre that ‘hell is other people’ then Heathrow T4 could be the one for you

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 18 October 2023 06:28 BST
<p>Record holder: Heathrow Terminal 5 is the busiest in the UK, with 100,000 passengers per day during September</p>

Record holder: Heathrow Terminal 5 is the busiest in the UK, with 100,000 passengers per day during September

Heathrow Terminal 5 handles more passengers than any other terminal in the UK – even when busy single-terminal airports are included. In September an average of 100,000 passengers arrived or departed each day from T5, which is the main hub for British Airways.

For the first time, the UK’s busiest airport terminals are ranked in a single table by the number of passengers handled in September. The ranking is intended to prepare travellers for the level of activity they can expect.

The top seven terminals all belong to airports serving London.

Passengers at the UK’s busiest airport who agree with Jean-Paul Sartre’s mantra that “hell is other people” could choose London Heathrow’s Terminal 4, which handles only a quarter of the traffic of T5.

Heathrow is by far the largest airport in the UK, but T5 is the only one of its terminals that makes the top four. London Stansted airport – which is the busiest single-terminal airport in the UK – is just behind Heathrow T5 in second place.

A spokesperson for Stansted said: “As the UK’s busiest single terminal airport, we work extremely hard with all our partners to deliver the best possible airport experience to the 27 million passengers who use us each year so they can enjoy the choice, value and ease of use we offer.

“We also have plans to extend our terminal building to further enhance the airport user experience by creating a more spacious environment and accommodating the introduction of the latest security technology.”

London Gatwick’s two terminals taking the third and fourth places. The Sussex airport’s busier terminal is North, the base for most easyJet flights. The numbers in September were slightly reduced from the expected figures due to staff shortages in the Gatwick control tower.

The two terminals in Heathrow’s central area, T3 and T2, are neck-and-neck for fifth and sixth places.

London Luton airport, which suffered a serious car park fire last week, takes seventh place; Edinburgh, Scotland’s busiest airport, is eighth.

Were the Eurostar cross-Channel rail terminal at London St Pancras International included, it would take the next spot with 40,000 passengers a day.

Manchester airport is the third-busiest in the UK after Heathrow and Gatwick, yet its busiest terminal, T1, makes only ninth place in the table. It is one of a cluster of terminals, including Manchester T2, Bristol and Birmingham, which handled just over one million passengers in September.

The remaining places are taken by Glasgow, Heathrow T4, Manchester T3 and Belfast International.

Rob Burgess, editor of the frequent flyer website, said: “Heathrow Terminal 4 is indeed a surreal experience, and a good reason for considering Qatar Airways or Etihad over Emirates (T3) for a long-haul flight, or even KLM or Air France with a connection.

“The presence of high spending Middle Eastern passengers means that the shopping is also better than you would expect.

“Your best bet for a quiet life is London Southend – if you are travelling to one of the few places that are served from the airport. You probably can’t beat Southend for space per square foot per passenger, and it has its own railway station and direct services from London Liverpool Street.”

Figures for passenger arrivals and departures in September 2023, in millions

Where no terminal is mentioned, the airport has a single terminal.

  1. Heathrow T5: 3.00
  2. Stansted: 2.62
  3. Gatwick North: 2.18
  4. Gatwick South: 1.90
  5. Heathrow T3: 1.66
  6. Heathrow T2: 1.63
  7. Luton: 1.51
  8. Edinburgh: 1.39
  9. Manchester T1: 1.08
  10. Manchester T2: 1.05
  11. Bristol: 1.03
  12. Birmingham: 1.02
  13. Glasgow: 0.80
  14. Heathrow T4: 0.75
  15. Manchester T3: 0.70
  16. Belfast International: 0.55

Figures supplied by airports or, in the case of Glasgow, estimated by The Independent

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in