The UK’s most delayed airline passenger services revealed

The UK’s most delayed airline passenger services revealed: Thomas Cook’s Stansted to Dalaman operation is the worst offender – but SEVEN of the 10 tardiest flights are by Ryanair

  • The analysis of flight delays was carried out by consumer champion Which?
  • The second most delayed service was Liverpool to Milan Malpensa on Ryanair 
  • Stansted was revealed as the UK’s worst performing airport for delays in 2018 

The 10 flight routes UK passengers are most likely to find themselves delayed on have been revealed by Which?

The consumer champion, using 2018 data from the Civil Aviation Authority, found that the worst offender is Thomas Cook’s service between London Stansted and Dalaman in Turkey. It is more delayed than any other service departing from or arriving at a UK airport.

Ryanair is tardier overall though – it operates seven of the 10 most frequently late services.

Thomas Cook’s service from London Stansted to Dalaman in Turkey has been named by Which? as the most delayed to leave or arrive into a UK airport

The analysis found that on Thomas Cook’s worst ranked route, passengers were delayed by more than an hour on a quarter of journeys.

The second most delayed operation was Ryanair’s service between Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Italy’s Milan Malpensa Airport, where passengers saw one in five (22.4 per cent) flights delayed by an hour or more.

Thomas Cook’s operation between Stansted and Antalya was little better, coming in as the third most delayed and affecting one in five (22.2 per cent) flights.

One in five (21.9 per cent, 4th) Ryanair flights between Stansted and Nice in the South of France were delayed by an hour or more, along with its services between Stansted and Leipzig in Germany (21.1 per cent, 5th), Luxembourg (20.2 per cent, 6th), Billund in Denmark (19.4 per cent, 7th), and Bari in southern Italy (19 per cent, 8th).

One in four (20.4 per cent, 9th) of its flights between Bristol and Bergamo were also substantially delayed.

EasyJet completed the top 10 most delayed services of 2018, with one in five (18.6 per cent) of its flights from Stansted to Ibiza late by an hour or more.

A graphic showing the 10 most delayed services of 2018, according to the Which? analysis


1. Stansted to Dalaman (Turkey) on Thomas Cook – 24.1 per cent of services delayed over an hour

2. Liverpool John Lennon to Milan Malpensa on Ryanair – 22.4 per cent

3. Stansted to Antalya (Turkey) on Thomas Cook – 22.2 per cent

4. Stansted to Nice on Ryanair – 21.9 per cent

5. Stansted to Leipzig (Germany) on Ryanair – 21.1 per cent

6. Bristol to Bergamo (Italy) on Ryanair – 20.4 per cent

7. Stansted to Luxembourg on Ryanair – 20.2 per cent

8. Stansted to Billund (Denmark) on Ryanair – 19.4 per cent

9. Stansted to Bari Palese (Italy) on Ryanair – 19 per cent

10. Stansted to Ibiza on easyJet 18.6 per cent

Source: Which?

Stansted was the UK’s worst performing airport for delays in 2018, with more than 10 per cent of its flights departing an hour late, and an average delay of nearly half an hour.

Which? Travel says that high-profile walkouts by Ryanair’s pilots and cabin crew certainly played their part in Stansted’s poor performance.

But it pointed out that even if Ryanair flights had been excluded from the analysis, Stansted would still have come out as the worst UK airport for punctuality.

To conduct the research, Which? Travel analysed 10million flights from the past five years that shows the difference between the planned gate time and actual gate time of each aircraft arriving at and leaving from 26 major UK airports.

Which? focused on departure and arrival delays relating to specific airport and airline routes. Specific routes analysed were those operated by the 10 busiest airlines that had at least 208 flights in 2018, and substantial delays were defined as being one hour or more.

Ryanair operates seven out of the 10 of the most frequently late services

And while the airlines offered a range of explanations for their poor performance – including issues with weather, airspace or strikes – the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as Eurocontrol, told the consumer champion the carriers themselves were most often to blame for delays.

Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach said: ‘The last thing holidaymakers want when they’re looking forward to their trip is to be stuck at the departure gate or on the tarmac, waiting to leave.

‘So it’s unacceptable to see some airlines show such blatant disregard to their passengers by performing so poorly on punctuality.

‘Not only are these delays inconvenient, but they can also leave people hundreds of pounds out of pocket when they miss connections or transfers, are fined for picking up their hire car late or miss their train or cab home.

‘The worst airlines and airports need to ensure they have the staff and capacity to run an on-time service – and that they look after their customers if delays do occur.’

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: ‘Unlike other airlines, we do not cancel flights when things go wrong and do everything we can to get our customers on holiday, which can impact overall punctuality figures.

‘A variety of factors, including air traffic control strikes in Europe and periods of severe weather, contributed to record levels of disruption across the industry last year.

EasyJet completed the top 10 most delayed services of 2018, with one in five (18.6 per cent) of its flights from Stansted to Ibiza late by an hour or more

‘We had a significant period of growth in 2018 with new routes and slots at UK airports. We always want to get our customers on holiday on time and have taken steps to improve punctuality this year, including operating more reserve aircraft to help get flights back on time quickly if delays happen.’

An easyJet spokesman said: ‘We have a continuous focus on punctuality across all of our 1,000 plus routes as we know it is important to our customers. In 2018 more than 91 per cent of flights arrived within an hour of their scheduled departure time however there are a number of factors outside of our control which contribute to delays.

‘Air space congestion continues to increase and 2018 was a difficult year of disruption with 30 days of air traffic control strike action. In March 2019, en-route air traffic flow management delays increased by 35.3 per cent and airport air traffic flow management delays increased by 52.2 per cent compared to March 2018.’

Nick Millar, London Stansted’s operations director, said: ‘On-time performance is affected by many issues beyond the airport’s control – adverse weather, strikes, airspace restrictions and capacity limitations, airline operational issues – but we are working with all airport partners, including Nats, airlines and handling agents, to ensure we provide a safe and efficient operation while delivering improvements to maintain and improve on time performance where possible.

‘It should also be noted that following a particularly challenging summer last year when adverse weather and ATC issues had a dramatic impact on airline on-time performance, both the airport and its partners have invested in additional resources, equipment and ways of working to improve ground operations at the airport.

‘This investment has significantly improved flight punctuality in the first quarter of 2019, and we expect to continue to see the benefits over the summer.’

Ryanair responded to Which?’s findings by simply pointing to the punctuality statistics it publishes on its own website.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: ‘These Which? figures are inflated and inaccurate. They refer to 2018, which was the worst year on record for ATC delays in Europe.

‘Ryanair regrets all flight delays but is pleased that its year-to-date on time performance for 2019 has returned to an industry leading, 90 per cent plus figure.’

Credit: The UK’s most delayed airline passenger services revealed