The Worst (And Best) Airlines For UK Flight Delays – Revealed

The average delay across 43 different airlines clocked in at 16 minutes, with Vueling, Thomas Cook, Wizz Air and Norwegian Air being among the worst.
A Vueling plane.
JOSEP LAGO via Getty Images
A Vueling plane.

Vueling Airlines has the worst punctuality of all the major airlines flying from UK airports, an investigation has found.

The Spanish airline’s UK departures were 31 minutes late on average in 2018, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the PA news agency.

Thomas Cook Airlines was found to have the second worst performance with flights typically 24 minutes late, followed by Wizz Air (23 minutes), Norwegian Air UK (22 minutes) and Eurowings (22 minutes).

Cathay Pacific Airways is the most punctual airline flying out of the UK, with aircraft typically taking off just eight minutes behind schedule.

The ranking features the 43 airlines with more than 2,000 flights from UK airports last year – the average delay across all flights clocks in at 16 minutes. These figures take into account every flight that operated, including those that were on time. Cancelled services were excluded from CAA data.

Strikes by air traffic controllers caused havoc for airlines in summer 2018.

A spokesman for Vueling, which serves several UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Birmingham, said the low-cost airline’s punctuality was “hugely affected” by industrial action in France.

He went on: “All airlines have been affected by air traffic control issues in Europe, but the location of Vueling’s (Barcelona) hub close to Marseille means it has been particularly badly affected.”

He added that the airline has taken measures to mitigate against the impact of further ATC issues, such as allocating up to 10 spare aircraft to operate flights during disruption.

Vueling’s parent company is International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Level.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, which represents UK-registered carriers, said too many flights are affected by the country’s “antiquated airspace”.

He added: “We support government in its efforts to introduce much needed modernisation so we can continue to safely and effectively accommodate the ever rising demand for air travel.”

While many train companies pay compensation for delays of more than 15 minutes, airline passengers are only entitled to compensation under European Union rules if they arrive at their destination more than three hours late.

Carriers can also avoid paying out if the disruption was due to “extraordinary circumstances” such as severe weather or a security alert.

Naomi Leach from the consumer magazine Which? Travel said flight delays can leave holidaymakers “hundreds of pounds out of pocket because of missed connections, transfers and fines for picking up their hire car late”.

She added: “The worst airlines need to ensure they have the staff and capacity to run an on-time service – and that they look after their customers if delays do occur.”