Revealed: the top 10 worst UK flight routes for delays

New analysis from Which? has revealed the UK’s top 10 most delayed flight routes – with one plagued by substantial delays of an hour or more on a quarter of journeys. 

The worst offender was Thomas Cook’s route from London Stansted to Dalaman in Turkey, with passengers flying this route suffering more delays than any other departing from or arriving at a UK airport last year. 

The analysis, based on Civil Aviation Authority flight delay data, found a quarter (24.1%) of passengers flying between the two airports in 2018 were delayed by more than an hour – increasing to around a third (36%) for those who travelled in July.

This was closely followed by Ryanair’s route between Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Italy’s Milan Malpensa Airport, where passengers saw one in five (22.4%) flights delayed by an hour or more.

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

Seven of the UK’s 10 most delayed routes belonged to Ryanair – with five of them on flights to and from Stansted. 

One in five (21.9%) Ryanair flights between Stansted and Nice in the South of France were delayed by an hour or more, along with its routes between Stansted and Leipzig in Germany (21.1%), Luxembourg (20.2%), Billund in Denmark (19.4%), and Bari in southern Italy (19%). 

One in four (20.4%) of its flights between Bristol and Bergamo were also substantially delayed.

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

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.

High-profile walkouts by Ryanair’s pilots and cabin crew certainly played their part in Stansted’s poor performance. But even if Ryanair flights had been excluded from the analysis, Stansted would still have come out as the worst UK airport for punctuality.

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.”


Top 10 worst routes for delays:


Route Airline Percentage of flights delayed by 1hr+
Stansted to Dalaman Thomas Cook 24.1%
Liverpool (John Lennon) to Milan (Malpensa) Ryanair 22.4%
Stansted to Antalya Thomas Cook 22.2%
Stansted to Nice Ryanair 21.9%
Stansted to Leipzig Ryanair 21.1%
Bristol to Bergamo Ryanair 20.4%
Stansted to Luxembourg Ryanair 20.2%
Stansted to Billund Ryanair 19.4%
Stansted to Bari (Palese) Ryanair 19%
Stansted to Ibiza easyJet 18.6%


Notes to editors:


  1. Which? Travel analysed 10 million flights from the last five years from the CAA, showing the difference between the planned gate time and actual gate time of each aircraft arriving at and leaving from 26 major UK airports in 2018. 
  2. Cancelled flights weren’t included. Which? focused on departure and arrival delays relating to specific airport/airline routes.
  3. The specific routes analysed were all those operated by the 10 busiest airlines which had at least 208 flights in 2018.
  4. Substantial delays are defined as delays of one hour or more.
  5. Video available here:


Rights of reply: 


  1. Thomas Cook explained its poor punctuality by claiming it cancels flights less frequently than rivals, suggesting that while passengers suffered long delays, it did at least get them to their destination. “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”, it added.
  2. Ryanair responded to Which?’s findings by simply pointing to the punctuality statistics it publishes on its own website.
  3. easyJet and Thomas Cook both claimed factors beyond their control were to blame for the delays, such as airspace, weather and strikes. 
  4. Stansted Airport responded to Which? saying it had posted significantly improved results in the first quarter of 2019, in part because Ryanair had “committed to a multi-million pound investment in additional resourcing and equipment to support ground operation.”


Advice for passengers:


  1. If your flight is delayed for at least two hours, your airline has to offer you assistance in the form of:
    1. Two free phone calls, emails or faxes
    2. Food and drink vouchers when appropriate
    3. A hotel room + transfers if required
  2. Which? has a free guide to find out how long you have to wait depending on the distance of your flight before you’re entitled to the free assistance.
  3. For more information on your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled, visit:

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