Passengers flying from Birmingham airport experienced the longest delays in the UK last year, official figures show.
Flight departures from Birmingham were on average half an hour behind schedule in 2022, marginally worse than Manchester, in a year marked by chaos for travellers.
Average lateness more than doubled from 2021, when Birmingham was also ranked worst for delays, as the end of travel restrictions led to an influx of returning customers in understaffed airports.
An analysis by the PA news agency of punctuality from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) found the average departure delay across all UK airports was 23 minutes in 2022, with the worst performance in May and June, as airports and airlines struggled to recruit enough new staff in areas such as security and ground handling to meet demand, triggering chaos for passengers.
Birmingham’s average 30-minute delay was just worse than Manchester, where some of the most chaotic scenes took place in the first half of the year. Manchester’s 29-minute average was matched by Doncaster Sheffield, which closed down entirely in November.
Luton and London Gatwick, the major bases of easyJet, which was forced to cancel swathes of flights, had the next longest delays.
East Midlands airport, which primarily serves cargo, was the best-performing airport, with an average delay of 13 minutes.
The UK’s biggest airport, London Heathrow, performed marginally better than the average, at 22 minutes behind schedule, after imposing a cap on passenger numbers in the summer to improve operations.
Birmingham, the UK’s seventh-biggest airport serving more than 10 million people last year, is rebuilding its security hall for 2024. It said it was operating smoothly so far this year. The airport is owned by the seven West Midlands local authorities and two pension funds.
Passengers also faced long queues and waits for security and check-in at many airports last year before boarding flights, with Birmingham and others making people queue outside terminals to manage the crowds.
A Birmingham airport spokesperson said: “The start of 2022 was devastated by Covid. After travel restrictions were lifted, the aviation industry fought hard to recover. This year, the first since 2020 not impacted by Covid, our airport is running smoothly with customers set to equal or exceed pre-pandemic numbers.
“Customers using Birmingham airport this summer can expect changes to walking routes as we build our £40m new security hall, set to be ready for June 2024.”
The CAA head of consumer, Anna Bowles, said: “Our data tells us that too many passengers faced disappointing levels of delays across UK airports last year.
“It is important consumers experience a high-quality service from both airlines and airports this year. We expect airlines to proactively provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are disrupted.”