The flight delays holding up holiday makers

As people gear up to book their New Year getaways, we uncover how nine of the busiest airlines fare for flight delays, the routes where passengers are most likely to experience hold ups and the best long and short haul airlines.

The latest Which? Travel research reveals nearly four in ten (37%) passengers experienced a flight delay in the last two years, with as many as a fifth (21%) of those delayed being held up for more than three hours. Despite this only four in ten (38%) claimed the compensation they were entitled to. Nearly half (44%) said they’d be happy to pay up to £50 more for a £250 flight, if the airline had an excellent rather than average punctuality record.

In a separate investigation we analysed Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data on flight delays for nine of the busiest airlines.

We found:

  • One in five (20%) flights fail to arrive within the industry standard of ‘on time’, which is defined as early to 15 minutes late.
  • Flybe is the least delayed of the airlines we looked at falling well below the industry defined standard of on time with an average delay of 10 minutes.
  • Thomas Cook and Monarch are the only two airlines that fail to meet the industry standard of on time, with average delay times of 18 minutes and 17 minutes respectively.
  • Thomson’s average delay time of 14 minutes meets the industry standard for on time but despite this they are responsible for flying seven out of the ten most delayed routes to the UK from a variety of destinations.
  • Ryanair flies seven out of ten of the least delayed routes to the UK, all of which are from European destinations.
  • The most delayed routes for a journey to the UK are a Thomson flight from Sanford in Florida to Gatwick, a Jet 2 flight from Chambery in France to Manchester and Thomson flight from Montego Bay in Jamaica to Gatwick, which all had average delays of over one hour.

Which? Travel Editor Jill Starley-Grainger, said:

“Nobody wants to be held up by flight delays so airlines must do everything in their power to ensure they fly on time.

“If you’ve suffered a flight delay of more than three hours you could be entitled to compensation.”

In an additional survey based on the experiences of 11,396 Which? members flying economy, Swiss was voted the best short-haul airline with a customer score of 82% while Thomas Cook came last with a score of 38%. Singapore topped the table for best long-haul airline with a customer score of 87%, while American Airlines appeared at the bottom of the table with a score of 37%.


Notes to editors:

1. Flight experience methodology – We surveyed 7,729 Which? members in October 2014 to find out about their experience of flying with an airline from a UK airport.

2. Flight delays methodology – We also analysed the monthly punctuality data produced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the performance of nine airlines (the largest eight in the UK and Ryanair) when flying to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted. We focused on inbound flights because arrival times are the best indicator of punctuality, as a plane can take off late but catch up on time during the flight.

3. Airline survey methodology – Our customer scores are based on 11,396 member experiences.

4. Average delay table:

141217 Delayed airlines - top and bottom 2

5. Best and worst routes to the UK:

141217 Delayed routes - top and bottom 3

 6. Which? Travel magazine is published bi-monthly and tells consumers the best tour operators to travel with, the airlines that give the best customer service, and the best ways to find value-for-money holidays? For practical travel advice, recommendations, and inspirational ideas, look no further than Which? Travel.

7. You can find more information about consumers’ rights on flight delays and compensation entitlements here:

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