Best and worst UK airports

By | Category: Travel news
 Newcastle  -the overall winner image © Newcastle Airport

Newcastle, the overall winner. Image © Newcastle Airport

This looks as though it will be a bumper holiday season. Although it looks as though more of us will be holidaying at home this year due to the weakness of the pound and instability in some holiday destinations, millions of us will still be heading overseas. Airports, and the experiences we undergo there,  will  be a key feature in what mood we will be in when we arrive at our destinations. has undertaken some independent research to come up with it claims is our best and worst airports. Or nearly since it only covers 15 airports and those are just in the UK.

The airports reviewed include Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow International, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted which means that some airports I would consider to be just as good if not better such as London City, Inverness and Newquay are omitted.

Amongst items considered before an overall figure was reached were the shopping experience, general cleanliness, Wi-Fi access and the bar and restaurant selection to the speed and ease of passing through security, the check-in process  and that most important of features – the toilets!

Newcastle was judged to be the overall winner achieving high levels of passenger satisfaction across all categories, followed closely by Edinburgh, then Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow respectively. London’s airports are lagging behind, with Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Luton all in the bottom five.  In many ways this is unsurprising because, generally, the bigger the airport the lower the levels of passenger satisfaction. If the survey had broken the big airports down by the different terminals, there might have been a different result because, newer terminals tend to get reviewed better than older ones. That method is employed by ACI (the world-wide trade body for airports) in their airport satisfaction studies.

Cardiff Airport c. Richard Swingler

Cardiff Airport c. Richard Swingler

Newcastle topped the categories for cleanliness, toilets, check-in, family friendly facilities, immigration experience and airport lounge. Cardiff was the winner in several categories such as friendliness of the airport staff, wi-fi access and the security process. Liverpool topped the ease and speed of baggage reclaim as well as sharing top spot with Newcastle for family friendly facilities.

So of these are rated the best, where are the worst?

Luton was bottom in every category apart from one – only Stanstead was rated to have worse wi-fi access. Gatwick and Heathrow jointed shared the worst spot for cleanliness although, in fairness, these are our two largest airports and will always struggle to achieve high satisfaction levels. The maxim in the UK and Ireland is – and which is proved time and time again – smaller airports do better than large ones.

Luton Airport - bottom in many of the categories

Luton Airport – bottom in many of the categories

Even then, friendliness of airport staff should not be linked to airport size but it often seems to be. It comes as no surprise then that Heathrow and Stansted fare badly. These two also were the tai, enders when it comes to family-friendly facilities and the security process. Finally in the crucial categories of toilet cleanliness, Birmingham, Stansted and Luton did not fare well.

How does this compare with other studies? Generally the ACI study mentioned earlier support the view that smaller airports do better than larger ones but they only compare airports that are considered larger, medium and small and whether they are predominantly business or leisure airports. And that is part of the problem with this study by You aren’t comparing apples with apples.


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