Which? reveals worst UK airport for security queues

A quarter of passengers at the UK’s worst airport for security queues endured waits of an hour or more, new research from Which? has found.

In a survey of almost 1,300 people who travelled from a UK airport between February and August 2022, Leeds Bradford had the longest wait times, with respondents spending an average of 35 minutes in security queues.

A quarter (27 per cent) of those who passed through the airport reported queue times of more than an hour, compared with just five per cent of respondents overall.

In August, Leeds Bradford acknowledged the issues passengers were facing as a result of long queues and installed LCD screens to provide travellers live updates on estimated wait times.

Overall, there were nine airports in Which?’s survey where travellers reported having experienced security queues of over an hour, including Bristol (17% of respondents), Birmingham (11%), and Manchester (8%). Seven per cent of respondents said they had missed a flight because they were stuck in excessively long queues.

City Airport in East London was the best performing airport, with an average estimated security queue time of just 12 minutes, and as many as half (50%) of travellers reporting wait times of between just five and 10 minutes. It was also the only London airport not to record any wait times of over an hour.

Last month, Which? revealed that City was among the best airports in the UK, after it ranked joint third in a survey of almost 7,500 Which members, who were asked to rate their experiences at UK airports over the past two years.

City distinguished itself as the only London airport to rank in the national top five, and was awarded an impressive five stars across all queue types, from check-in, bag-drop, security, passport control and baggage reclaim. Respondents who rated the airport highly praised their experience as ‘slick’, ‘pleasant’ and ‘painless’.

Belfast City and Glasgow International were also among the airports to have performed well on security queue times, each having an average wait of 13 minutes, according to respondents. As many as 30 per cent of those who used Belfast City reported waiting less than five minutes to pass through security, with a similar figure of 31 per cent reported at Glasgow International.

Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel said:

“Travellers this year have borne the brunt of unprecedented chaos at UK airports, with huge numbers enduring long queues and some even missing a flight due to excessive wait times to clear security.

“Your choice of airport shouldn’t make or break your holiday – but for too many travellers this year, that has been the case. We’d recommend choosing an airport with a better record on queues and treatment of passengers, even if that involves travelling slightly further from home.”

Notes to editors:

  • Which? surveyed 1,296 adults in the UK who travelled from a UK airport between mid-February 2022 and mid-August 2022. Respondents were asked to provide an estimate of how long they queued through security on their most recent flight. Fieldwork was conducted between 19 August and 30 August 2022 and was carried out online by Opinium. The data has been weighted to be representative of the UK population (aged 18+). For security queue times, 14 airports returned a sample size adequate for inclusion.

  • Last month, Which? revealed the results of its annual survey of member’s airport experiences. 7,469 members of the consumer champion’s online panel reported 7,963 airport experiences over the previous two years (July 2020 – July 2022). Which?’s survey asked respondents to rate their recent airport experiences based on ten criteria including queue times at check-in, bag drop, security, passport control and baggage reclaim, the standard of facilities such as seating and toilets, helpfulness of staff, the range of shops and price of goods on offer. A customer score was also calculated for each airport, based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely respondents are to recommend the airport.

  • Table of average reported security wait time in minutes:


Average Reported Security
Queue Time In Minutes

London City


Belfast City


Glasgow International




London Gatwick




London Stansted


Belfast International


London Luton


London Heathrow








Leeds Bradford


  • Airports aren’t obliged to publish security queue data and those that do measure queues don’t use the same methods. Which? Travel contacted the eight busiest UK airports, as well as London City and Leeds Bradford, to ask for their own data for 1 March to 31 August:

Heathrow and Edinburgh Airports both said that 90% of passengers got through security within 15 minutes. Heathrow’s statistics, published online, show that queues were worse in July than the rest of the period.

Gatwick Airport didn’t respond but its published figures show there were seven security queues where passengers waited more than 30 minutes in July 2022 and six in June. It said around 96% of passengers got through in 15 minutes or less.

Manchester Airport said that 90% of passengers in the same period got through security in less than 30 minutes – but it acknowledged that some had a much worse experience. It said that it was hit by recruitment problems in the spring after pandemic restrictions were lifted, but that queue times had significantly improved by August.

Luton and London City Airport said the average wait time for security for that period was seven minutes.

Stansted Airport said ‘the overwhelming majority of passengers passed through security in well under 10 minutes.’

Bristol Airport said that average security queues took 27 minutes. It also said that 82.2% of customers passed through security in less than 20 minutes.

Birmingham declined to provide data.

At the time of publication, Leeds Bradford had not replied.

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