What’s the Worst Airport in the UK?

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Ok – I’m sure we’ve all got opinions on this one, so let me know your own particular bête noires in the comments, but according to Which, it’s Luton Airport which bags the title of “Worst Airport in the UK” – remarkably, for the third year in a row!

In case you were wondering what, specifically, is so bad about Luton, it seems to be just about everything – as the BBC reports: “Luton was rated one star for its baggage drop queues, shops, seating, toilets and staff in the Which? study”.

My favourite criticism though, is the brilliantly blunt description of the customer service being “disastrous”. I’ve come across a lot of inept customer service on my travels, but I can’t think of many examples that I could fairly describe as disastrous.

Needless to say, Luton Airport disputes the survey’s findings. CEO of the airport, Nick Barton, stated that, “In the first six months of 2018, 1.2 million passengers responded to our customer service tracking, 70% of whom told us they were happy with their experience” (Hmmm… 😉 )

The five worst UK airports

(Customer score is based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely respondents were to recommend the airport to a friend.)

1. Luton (35%)

2. Stansted (44%)

2. Manchester Terminal 3 (44%)

4. Manchester Terminal 1 (46%)

5. Aberdeen (49%)

I also found the best rated UK airports interesting too:

The top five UK airports

1. Doncaster Sheffield (87%)

2. Southend (84%)

3. Newcastle (74%)

4. Southampton (73%)

5. Exeter (72%)

Despite living relatively close to Doncaster Sheffield, the only airport in the top five that I can remember flying through is actually Southampton. Have I been missing out on the brilliance of DSA all this time, or it just slightly less bad than most other UK airports?

Bottom line

So, what do you think – is Luton really the worst airport in the UK? I’ve passed through a few times and it definitely wasn’t good on any of those occasions, but on recent form/personal experience, I think Manchester Airport would probably get my vote – the repeated combination of comedy sketch security and massively overcrowded lounges (to the extent that Priority Pass has been completely useless the last 3 times), just about swings it for me.


  1. Miles Hunt says

    The security staff at Luton are some of the worst human beings on the planet. I genuinely nearly got refused access because I expressed dismay when I was told my liquids clear plastic bag was “the wrong size clear plastic bag”. By about 2 cm.

  2. AH says

    Last time I went to Manchester airport to pick someone up….I have to say that it was a pretty depressing place to be.

  3. Andrew H says

    I’ve been through all those ‘top five’ airports in my ambition to fly from every airport in the UK, and I can mostly understand why they’re at the top. Doncaster, Newcastle and Southend are 1) wonderfully spacious; and 2) uncrowded. Wonderful experiences. Exeter is smaller, but again, it’s uncrowded. Southampton is fairly small and cramped airside so I’m surprised it’s in the top five, but the speed of getting through security in all five is pretty damn good, so perhaps that is why it’s on the list.

    As for the worst, I’ve only been through Luton once and it was a smooth trip, but I’m not surprised to see Manchester on there. A decade ago, some very strange decisions were made regarding the terminals, making them far more cramped. For example, the landside parts of T1 consisted of a check-in hall and a shopping mall. It made landside a very spacious and relaxed environment. There were restaurants and shops galore to entertain you (I even took a few day trips there, to poke around the shops for bargains).

    If you were at T1 and wanted to get to T3, you’d simply follow the signs and walk through the bright, pleasant, connecting corridor. You’re inside and undercover.

    But then someone at the top decided the airport would be better off if that particular access route was blocked off. So now you have to take a slow lift from T1 check-in hall down to the ground, and walk round the outside of the building – sometimes in the pouring rain – to get to T3. If you arrive by train, then it’s also an outside walk to T3.

    They also blocked off access to the T1 and T2 shopping areas for non-travelling passengers, That made the landside areas far more crowded. The sheer number of passengers in T1 and T3 make those check-in halls very overcrowded. There are no seating areas in T1, T2 and T3 landside, so if you’re waiting for check-in to open, you just have to stand in a corner with all your luggage.

    The worst decline has been in security. The queues in both terminals are now VERY long and it takes an age to get through. Only two or three of the lanes are open, despite queues stretching back into the check-in halls. On my last visit through T3, the X-Ray machine kept breaking down, and I spent about 25 minutes getting through.

    At the time of the changes, I asked an employee why the shopping areas had been blocked off, and he said ‘to get passengers through to airside quicker’. Oh, the irony!

    Manchester used to be one of the more pleasant airport experiences, but now it’s one of the worst. It’s been a very sad decline, and no one in power seems interested in doing anything about it. Just like Luton, I suspect.

    My personal choice for worst UK airport would be Aberdeen. The airside area is TINY – a narrow corridor. It’s like being jammed into a sardine can with 200 other people.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Fantastic run through there! – I’ve been confused for years about Manchester, because at the back of my mind I always had a vague memory of the journey to T3 not being so weird/awkward, so many thanks for explaining that.

      I’ve really no idea what they were thinking – the lift is bizarre and the signposting isn’t great, plus making people go outside more than they have to in Manchester in Winter is just plain cruel!

      I’ll give DSA a look next time I get chance and be sure to avoid Aberdeen!

    • Peter SMART says

      Someone needs to defend Aberdeen. Busses and taxis stop within metres of the main entrance. Short stay parking is on the door-step and long stay just a couple of minutes’ courtesy bus ride away. The check-in area is clearly delineated for the different airline users. The operator is spending £20 million over 3 years to transform the terminal. So far, there is a new spacious international arrivals immigration and customs area, and a new spacious domestic bag reclaim area. OK, it’s just over 1 minute further away than the old one, but still not that far compared with many airports. The new central search area opened three months ago, with plenty of space and fast track. The new retail area is double the size of the old one. There are two new exec lounges, one for BA and one for all other carriers which are both better than most around the UK. And the last phase of the transformation will vastly increase the size of the seating and catering areas, part to open later this year and part next year. And all this work has gone out without any great impact on operations.

      And, by my calculation, ABZ handles almost as many passengers on a busy day, before 08.00, than DSA does all day.

      But don’t get me started on MAN! Ever tried waiting for a Flybe domestic flight, in the most dismal grey low ceilinged area imaginable, or fighting for a seat upstairs against the hoards of RyanAir passengers?

  4. Trident3 says

    Not to rain in DSA’s parade, but….their website’s departures list for ALL DAY tomorrow shows (drum roll) 13 flights.

    Yep, certainly uncrowded – if you happen to want to go to one of a very select istbof destinations

    • Peter SMART says

      DSA – yes, just 13 flights a day and three main airlines: Flybe to Dublin, Belfast and Newquay; Wizz to a cross section of Polish destinations and TUI to the sun. It’s a pity Which?’s report doesn’t extend beyond the subjective views of their respondents with some back up information.

  5. Brian says

    Living in Jersey, we primarily use Exeter, Southampton and Gatwick South for BA and Gatwick North for Easyjet. Southamptons rating is unsurprising but Exeter is very shabby by comparison. Neither terminal at Gatwick is great; overcrowded with consequent inadequate seating, and toilets which don’t work!

  6. Myles says

    Have they tried Inverness, if you can find a car parking space that’s a good start , the only positive is a nice apron view from the reasonably price cafe. Departures is chocked on a regular flight departure, and they schedule two jet departures very close together. Security are in no rush to get you through. On the positives. .well there are none, oh yes the hike to the longstay car park in the open air gets you soaked assuming you can find any available spaces.

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