The UK’s worst airports revealed – and Manchester is bottom of the pack

Doomed Doncaster Sheffield gains top spot less than a week before closure

Lucy Thackray
Thursday 27 October 2022 15:32 BST
Related: Passengers stuck in long queues at Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport’s three terminals have taken up the bottom three spots in a list of the UK’s best and worst airports.

Which? Travel ’s ranking of the UK’s aviation hubs - which separated multi-terminal airports out into individual terminals - saw Manchester’s terminals 1, 2 and 3 rank in the last three places, followed by Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4.

Fifth worst was Belfast International, followed by Heathrow Terminal 3 at sixth from bottom.

The list was produced by Which? based on a survey of 7,469 people rating 7,963 airport experiences during the peak travel month of August 2022.

At the top end, Doncaster Sheffield airport, which closes indefinitely next week, topped the list with an 85 per cent score, based on individual features such as queues, baggage reclaim waits, shops, seating and toilets.

According to a statement from Which?, “travellers praised the ‘fantastic, helpful staff’ and ‘faultless service’”, awarding [Doncaster’s] employees a full five stars.

“The airport also scooped five star ratings for queues through security and at baggage reclaim, as well as for seating and toilet facilities, with one respondent enthusing their experience was ‘how air travel should be’,” said the team.

Joint second were Exeter Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport, with each given an 83 per cent customer score in the survey.

For comparison, the bottom-rated Manchester terminal (3) received a 38 per cent rating from customers polled.

After Exeter and Liverpool came London City and Southampton in joint third, with a 77 per cent approval rating from passengers.

Next most popular was Bournemouth Airport, with 76 per cent.

London Gatwick’s north and south terminals landed in the middle of the pack, at 17th and 18th in the list of 29 airports, ranking lower than Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Other airports at the bottom included Heathrow’s Terminal 2, putting three of the UK’s busiest airport’s terminals in the bottom 10 in the country, along with London Luton, Leeds Bradford and London Stansted.

Manchester’s bottom-ranking Terminal 3 “scored a lowly one star for queues at security, seating, prices in shops and the range of shops on offer,” said Which?

The northwestern hub has been beset with problems in the past year, with one managing director resigning in April and its chief executive forced to apologise the same month for delays and queues.

Meanwhile, Heathrow saw hundreds of flight cancellations this summer, imposing a cap of 100,000 passengers a day in July which is due to be lifted on Saturday (29 October).

Guy Hobbs, the editor of Which? Travel said: “This year we’ve witnessed unprecedented chaos at many of the UK’s largest airports. Travellers reported extensive queues and unhelpful staff, with resources pushed to breaking point.

“Just a few years ago, travellers may have paid little attention to their choice of airport – but now it may just make or break your trip. Wherever possible, we’d recommend opting for smaller airports, which have generally offered a smoother and less stressful experience for their passengers over the last two years.”

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “We apologise to any customer who feels their experience was not of the standard we want to deliver over the past two years.

“The pandemic was the biggest crisis faced by our industry in its history. At one stage passenger numbers at Manchester Airport dropped to just 5 per cent of normal levels and airports around the world had to cut costs just to survive.

“The hugely competitive employment market and delays in training and vetting meant there were times when we were unable to keep up with passenger demand, which resulted in longer waiting times than we would like.”

They added that “service levels had improved consistently and we are now in a place where we can provide a good standard of service to passengers”.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “This is an amateur survey with inaccurate and misleading conclusions. What is clear is that Heathrow has faced unprecedented growth this year, as passenger numbers rose faster and higher than any other European hub, with more than 18 million passengers using the airport this summer.

“After the two years of international travel lockdown, this was always going to be a tough year and colleagues across the airport have put in a monumental effort to meet those challenges. Our focus continues to be on building back capacity so that we can deliver the consistent, high-quality service our passengers expect at Heathrow.”

10 best UK airports

  1. Doncaster Sheffield (closing 31 October)
  2. Exeter
  3. Liverpool John Lennon
  4. London City
  5. Southampton
  6. Bournemouth
  7. Newcastle
  8. Cardiff
  9. Inverness
  10. Belfast City (George Best)

10 worst UK airports

  1. Manchester terminal 3
  2. Manchester terminal 1
  3. Manchester terminal 2
  4. Heathrow terminal 4
  5. Belfast International
  6. Heathrow terminal 3
  7. London Luton
  8. Heathrow terminal 2
  9. Leeds Bradford
  10. London Stansted

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