Terminal decline – Belfast International rated worst UK airport

Belfast International has been rated the worst airport in Which?’s annual airport survey, with passengers frustrated by problems including long queues, crowded terminals and pricey parking charges.

Northern Ireland’s busiest airport came bottom of the small airport rankings and achieved an abysmal customer score of 42 per cent – making it the UK’s worst-rated airport overall.

London Luton (43%), Manchester T3 (47%) and Aberdeen (50%) were also among the poorest performers in the survey of more than 6,000 airport experiences.

Travellers described Belfast International as “tired and shabby”, others pointed out a “poor layout” and claimed the airport was “understaffed.”

The airport also scored poorly for security queues, seating and staff as well as a limited range of shops and restaurants – a quarter (25%) of which are branches of WH Smith.

London Luton was again at the bottom of the large airport table, where it has been tethered for the fourth year running.

Despite terminal improvement works finishing in December, Luton travellers complained of “limited seating” and “congested” security queues.

The refurbishment does not appear to have fixed the airport’s problems, with one passenger noting that the airport seemed to have “taken all the bad ideas from other airports and incorporated them here”.

Most damningly, Which? found those surveyed who said if there was an airport they would never fly from, a quarter (25%) would pick Luton.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen achieved the lowest rating (50%) out of the airports in Scotland with two stars in most categories, including staff. The lowest rating for this airport was for lack of seating, which received only one star. 

One customer told Which? that it was “geographic convenience rather than choice” as their main reason for using the airport. 

Crowned the highest-rated airport in the country for the third year running and beating its larger counterparts by some margin with an impressive 86 per cent customer score was Doncaster Sheffield.

Customers described the Yorkshire hub as a “cosy airport” with no queues that was “easy to navigate,” with the biggest gripe among customers that it was not connected to more destinations than its current 55.

Most impressively, a staggering 97 per cent of those who have used the airport in the last 12 months told the consumer champion they would recommend Doncaster Sheffield, praising its “personable and helpful” staff.

Among the airports with more than 10 million passengers a year, Heathrow Terminal 5 has the best overall customer score (66%). Ample seating and helpful staff both earned the airport four out of five stars but it was the quality of the toilet facilities which got the full five-star rating.

Travellers noted however that “too many half-empty luxury shops” made the terminal feel too much like “a shopping mall,” while car parking was described as “daylight robbery”.

Hot on the heels of Heathrow T5, “hassle-free” Birmingham earned a 65 per cent customer score and three stars across all categories, although some travellers used words like “unremarkable” and “functional”.


Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach said:

“It is clear that smaller airports are generally outperforming their larger counterparts with seamless security checks and friendly staff making the biggest impression with flyers.

“So if you have the luxury of choice when it comes to which airport you fly from, choose Doncaster Sheffield over Leeds Bradford, Southend over Luton, Edinburgh over Aberdeen and Belfast City over Belfast International for a smoother start to your trip.”



Notes to editors:

  • In April/May 2019 4,499 Which? members were surveyed about 6,237 airport experiences
  • Large airports – Over 10 million passengers a year
  • Small airports – Under 10 million passengers a year
  • Star ratings – range from one to five
  • A dash  – indicates there were not enough respondents to provide a rating. Sample sizes are in brackets
  • Customer score – is based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely you are to recommend the airport. Those with the same customer score are in alphabetical order
  • Baggage reclaim – The length of wait on your return journey
  • Seating – Number available, comfort, location throughout the airport (excluding in lounges)

Staff –  Overall customer experience received from airport staff

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