Northern Ireland

Flight delays: Belfast City most punctual airport

Departures from Gatwick were an average of 27 minutes behind schedule in 2023, according to new analysis.

The plane, carrying 53 passengers onboard, was travelling to Belfast City Airport
The plane, carrying 53 passengers onboard, was travelling to Belfast City Airport

An investigation into flight delays has found that Belfast City (George Best) is the best performing in Britain and Northern Ireland.

Gatwick was the worst airport in the UK for delays last year.

Departures from the West Sussex airport were an average of nearly 27 minutes behind schedule in 2023, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.

The airport, which is the second-busiest in the UK, was badly affected by air traffic control (ATC) staff shortages across Europe last year, and repeatedly suffered the same problem in its own control tower.

A graphic showing a ranking of airports by average flight delays

Gatwick said in a statement it is “working closely with our airline partners to improve on-time performance”.

Luton airport had the second poorest punctuality record, with an average delay of almost 23 minutes.

In third place was Manchester, at nearly 22 minutes.

George Best airport had the best performance, with a typical delay of 12-and-a-half minutes.

The average delay for flights across all airports was almost 20 minutes and 42 seconds, down from 23 minutes and 12 seconds in 2022, when the aviation sector struggled to cope with a surge in demand for holidays following the end of coronavirus travel restrictions.

The analysis took into account all scheduled and chartered departures from the 22 commercial UK airports with at least 1,000 outbound flights last year. Cancellations were not included.

CAA director Tim Johnson said it is vital the aviation sector “focuses on resilience” ahead of the summer holiday period to “keep passenger disruption to a minimum”.

He added: “Where people do find themselves facing disruption, we want them to be well-informed about the duty of care that they are entitled to.”

A plane lands at Gatwick (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A spokesperson for trade body the Airport Operators Association said: “Airports work extremely hard to minimise delays while providing a positive, safe and secure experience for passengers.

“These figures do not provide any of the context around operating in a global environment and do not give the travelling public a clear picture of how air travel operates.”