Liverpool John Lennon Airport has been named the UK’s best airport in Which?’s annual survey, while Manchester Airport – just 30 miles down the road – is the worst.
Which? surveyed almost 4,000 people about their experiences at airports in the last twelve months and invited them to rate the airports across eleven categories, including seating, staff, toilets and queues at check in, bag drop, passport control and security.
A customer score was calculated based on a combination of overall satisfaction and likeliness to recommend. The consumer champion also asked travellers to report how long they spent queueing at security.
At the top of the charts is Liverpool John Lennon airport, with a customer score of 82 per cent. It has also earned Which? Recommended Provider status for the second consecutive year.
Customers praised their experience at the airport as “first class” and gave it five stars for check-in and security queues, indicating an uncommonly hassle-free experience.
It also scored four stars for staff, with multiple respondents praising them as both “friendly” and “helpful”. It also achieved four stars for baggage reclaim and queues at bag drop and passport control. One traveller said it was a “well run, efficient airport” while another lauded it as their “preferred” airport.
Close behind with a score of 78 per cent is London City airport. Well served by transport links, the airport is a popular option for business travellers in and out of the capital. It scored an impressive five stars for queues at check-in and security, where new scanners have recently been installed meaning passengers no longer need to observe the 100ml limit on liquids or remove electronics from their bags. Respondents praised the airport’s “relaxed” atmosphere.
The airport had some of the lowest security waiting times of any in the survey, with an average estimated queue of just 10 minutes, beaten only by Aberdeen and Southampton, which both had average waits of nine minutes. One passenger said “it’s quick and so much less hassle”, while another lauded the scanners as a “game-changer”.
It missed out on a Which? Recommended Provider badge owing to a low rating of just two stars for toilet facilities.
Completing the top five are Southampton (77%) and Bournemouth (75%), the only other airports to be named Which? Recommended Providers, and East Midlands and Newcastle, which tied on 72 per cent.
At the other end of the spectrum, Manchester Airport had the unwelcome distinction of taking the lowest two spots in the rankings, with a dismal customer score of just 38 per cent for Terminal 3 and 44 per cent for Terminal 1.
Manchester’s Terminal 2 fared marginally better, but still found itself in the bottom five with a score of 50 per cent.
Terminal 3 scored a lamentable one star for seating, prices in shops, and queues at check-in, bag drop and security. It scored no higher than two stars in any of the remaining categories. One traveller complained of “huge queues” at check-in, branding the situation a “joke”, while others dubbed the airport experience “crowded, noisy, generally stressful” and “dispiriting from start to finish”. Multiple respondents reported long queues at various points through the airport experience, and noted the airport was “overcrowded”.
Terminal 1 (44%) also received a clutch of one and two star ratings, but secured three stars for the range of shops on offer. Terminal 2 (50%) meanwhile scored no lower than two stars in any category, and managed a good score of four stars for queues at the check in desk.
The airport was among the worst performing in the survey for security queues, with an average wait time of 28 minutes reported at Terminal 3, 26 minutes at Terminal 2 and 25 minutes at Terminal 1. Only Birmingham Airport performed worse, with an average reported wait time of 29 minutes.
Also in the bottom five are London Luton and Belfast International, both tied on a score of 49 per cent.
The worst-rated London airport in the survey, Luton received a dismal rating of just one star for queues at check-in and bag drop and received just two stars in the majority of remaining categories, with more than one customer asserting they’d “never fly from Luton again”. Its highest score of three stars was for the range of shops on offer, though one customer complained they had “no time to go near the shops because of all the queues.” It was among the five worst airports for security queues, with an average reported waiting time of 22 minutes.
Belfast International meanwhile scored just two stars for seating, staff, range of shops and toilets, and scored three stars for queues through security, which respondents reported lasting 21 minutes on average. One passenger commented that at “every level service or quality is poor”.
However, others seemed more satisfied, noting “everything seemed to go smoothly” and another said, “its facilities and services are easy to use.”
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel said:
“Choosing the right airport isn’t often high on travellers’ holiday checklists, but taking the time to think about where you’re flying from can really pay dividends.
“We’d recommend opting for a smaller airport, as our survey shows they generally tend to perform better on queue times and customer service, giving holidaymakers the positive start to their holidays they should expect.”
Notes to editors
– In June 2023 Which? surveyed 3,842 members of its online panel about their airport experiences over the past twelve months.
-The customer score is based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely respondents are to recommend the airport. Those airports with the same customer score are listed in the table in alphabetical order.
-To calculate the star ratings, Which?’s survey asked respondents to rank their recent airport experiences based on eleven criteria including queue times at check-in, bag drop, security, passport control, baggage reclaim, the standard of facilities such as seating and toilets, staff, the range of shops and price of goods on offer, and airport wifi. Some of the experiences ranked will not be under the direct control of airport management, for example, UK border controls.
-Sample sizes are proportionate to market share.
– Which? Recommended Status for airports has been awarded since 2022.
-Airport security times:
To compile average security wait times, passengers were asked to estimate the wait time for security on a recent airport visit. Airports aren’t obliged to publish security queue data and those that do measure queues don’t use the same methods. Which? asked airports to provide their security queue waiting data between June 2022 and June 2023.
A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport (BHX) said: “The average security wait time for customers at BHX between June 2022 and June 2023 was nine minutes. This fact highlights the potential flaws of relying on anecdotal estimates rather than data. Our performance in this area matters to our customers, which is why we measure it precisely every day. We are currently investing £40m in a new security hall, which, once operational in June 2024, will further improve customers’ experience.”
A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said “We are committed to providing a great experience to all passengers. Our customer service is driven by investment in our people – we have recruited more than 3,000 colleagues since April 2022 and established a new 100-strong resilience team, trained in a variety of roles so they can respond at short-notice to ensure passengers get a good level of service. It is also driven by investment in our facilities, especially the £1.3bn transformation of Terminal 2, through which more than 80% of our passengers will fly by 2025.The Which? survey creates a deeply flawed and misleading picture. Not only is the Which? survey out of date, it is also based on a tiny and unrepresentative sample of the 25 million passengers who travel through Manchester airport every year. We surveyed 840 passengers in July and August this year, and 94% rated their overall satisfaction with the service they received as either good, very good or excellent. Since April this year, we have welcomed more than 10.4m people through Manchester Airport and 95.6% of them have got through security in under 15 minutes. Almost three quarters got through security in under five minutes and 99.8% in under 30 minutes.”
Luton Airport said the average queue time for security between June 2022 and June 2023 was 9 minutes.
A spokesperson for Leeds Bradford Airport said: “We welcome all feedback, as we use it to improve our services moving forwards, especially as we look to modernise our existing terminal. However, we do not recognise these survey results as our own electronic queue management system confirms that the average queue time at LBA was 10 minutes during the period June ’22 to June ’23.”
Belfast International said that between June 2022 and June 2023 95% of passengers passed through security in under 15 mins
London Stansted said they switched to a different system to measure security queue times from the start of January 2023, meaning that 2023 and 2022 figures are not directly comparable. In July, 97% of passengers passed through Stansted’s security in under 15 minutes. In the period between January and July of this year, 99% of passengers got through security in less than 30 minutes on average.
Bristol Airport declined to comment.
London Heathrow said “passengers can be confident of a smooth journey through Heathrow. We’re in the thick of the summer peak and consistently seeing almost all passengers through security in less than five minutes.”
Edinburgh Airport said throughout 2022 they processed 92.97% of passengers through security in 15-minutes or less, and in 2023 to date this figure is 97.65%.
Gatwick Airport said: “We experience queues from time to time, but these tend to keep moving and dissipate quickly. On average 90% of passengers have been getting through security in under 10 minutes – and many much quicker than that. “
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