Passengers are more likely to be delayed at British airports than almost anywhere else in the world because runway capacity is being stretched to the limit.
The UK’s busiest airports are lagging far behind those in other countries. Seven British airports appeared among the worst for delays in a global league table published yesterday.
Gatwick was ranked 192nd out of 196 airports for the number of aircraft arriving or departing within 15 minutes of schedule last year; more than a third of its flights were late. Stansted was in 190th place, Luton was 189th and Manchester was 188th. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Heathrow were all in the bottom 33. More than a quarter of flights were late going in and out of Heathrow.
This compared with only 7 per cent at Osaka in Japan, the best performing smaller international airport; only 9 per cent of flights were late at Tokyo Haneda, the best large-scale airport.
The study by OAG, an aviation data company, comes weeks after the government delayed a decision on capacity in the southeast. Ministers have pledged to choose between a second runway at Gatwick or a third at Heathrow in the summer, but there are fears that the decision could be pushed back again.
“Runway capacity continues to be an issue of course,” John Grant, a senior analyst at OAG, said. “Heathrow and Gatwick’s on-time performance ratings are both down on last year, a real reflection of how far those airports are stretched for capacity.” He said that both airports “have now almost reached full use”.
The annual punctuality league ranks airlines and airports across the world by the proportion of flights taking off or landing within 15 minutes of their official schedule. Bristol was the best UK airport, ranked tenth, with 88.6 per cent of flights on time.
At Heathrow, 74.6 per cent of flights were within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, while at Gatwick only 65.0 per cent were similarly punctual.
In contrast, Tokyo Haneda boasted 91.3 per cent of flights on time, ahead of Munich, in Germany, with 87.7 per cent and Sao Paulo Guarulhos, in Brazil, with 87.5 per cent.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “Heathrow is the only major hub airport in the world to operate at 99 per cent capacity and we operate more than twice the number of aircraft movements on just two runways than the combined average of other global hubs. While we’ve become extremely efficient at it, we will only be able to build more resilience into the system with additional runway capacity.”
A Gatwick spokesman said: “Incidents beyond Gatwick’s control have had a big influence on the airport’s overall performance and punctuality.”
A table of the best airlines placed airBaltic, a Latvian budget carrier, at the top, with 94.4 per cent of flights on time. Monarch Airlines (88.2 per cent) and Flybe (87.5 per cent) were the only British airlines to make it into the top 20.
The most punctual
85.6% London City
74.6% London Heathrow
67.4% London Luton
65.0% London Gatwick
Major airports worldwide
91.3% Tokyo Haneda
87.5% Sao Paolo Guarulhos
84.8% Singapore Changi
* percentage of flights within 15 minutes of schedule. Source: OAG