Is Manchester Really The Worst Airport In The UK?

Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.

Manchester Airport was recently named the worst airport in the UK by a Which? survey. Feedback was taken from more than 7,000 people about their experiences of flying from UK airports between July 2020 and July 2022, with Manchester’s Terminal 3 receiving the lowest customer score of 38 per cent.

This year Which? said it received “a sea of two-star ratings and the lowest score for security queues at every terminal” at Manchester Airport and advised passengers to “avoid Terminal 3 if you can.”

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said:

“We apologise to any customer who feels their experience was not of the standard we want to deliver over the past two years. The pandemic was the biggest crisis faced by our industry in its history…

…There were times when we were unable to keep up with demand, which resulted in longer queues than we would like.”.

The airport argues that now the situation has vastly improved and that they are in the position to be able to offer a good standard of service. We would love to hear from readers in the comments section below whether that statement is accurate 😉

Best And Worst UK Airport Terminals

In case you’re wondering which airports are high-flyers and which are best avoided, here you go:

Which? Survey’s Top 5 UK Airports

  1. Doncaster Sheffield (closed 31st October, which is perhaps a little ironic)
  2. Exeter
  3. Liverpool John Lennon
  4. London City
  5. Southampton

Which? Survey’s Bottom 5 UK Airports

  1. Manchester Terminal 3
  2. Manchester Terminal 1
  3. Manchester Terminal 2
  4. Heathrow Terminal 4
  5. Belfast International

Bottom line

I haven’t flown from Manchester Airport since before the first COVID lockdown, but even back then it was rarely an enjoyable experience. Do you agree with the rankings above? – what’s your personal favourite/worst UK airport?

Images: Manchester Airport


  1. Eppleby Green says

    I totally disagree with the ‘Which’ assessment of Manchester T3. My wife and I have flown out of, and into, T3 twice in the last year with absolutely no problems. Admittedly we were flying BA and not one of the so-called low cost carriers!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Delighted to hear it Eppleby! I can’t remember having similar luck myself very often, but it does absolutely happen sometimes. If the weather is ok, and it’s not too busy, and security doesn’t take a weirdly long amount of time, it’s fine. I’ve even managed to use my Priority Pass for lounge access a few times over the years without being told they were at capacity, but not often.

  2. Andrew Haddow says

    Yes, it is the worst. It started in the mid 2000s when they started making changes. They cut off the shopping and eating areas in T1 and T2 to airside only. Prior to that, non-passengers could go around the shops. Then they removed the connecting corridor between T1 and T3 so you had to walk between them outside, exposed to the cold and wet weather conditions. Then they blocked access to the piers in T3 so everyone had to stay in that tiny central overcrowded area. There’s also the T3 security hall which has many security lanes, but very few that are operational, so the queues are long. And the airport hotels on-site are ludicrously overpriced. The airport went from a roomy, relaxed and comfortable environment to a cramped and stressful one. No wonder it sits at the bottom of polls. To this day I couldn’t understand why the changes were made.

    • Joe Deeney says

      This might be the single best (detailed, yet concise) takedown of anything I’ve seen all year. Brutal but accurate.

      The T1-T3 transit bit is absolutely bizarre. It’s Manchester, it’s definitely going to rain – and likely to hit you sideways. I actually can’t count the number of times I’ve been frozen or drenched there, but it must be dozens.

      If I get time I might do some research into the ‘why’, because I’m afraid I currently have no answer.

      • dave says

        Just bad management.

        During the pandemic when BA still flew to LHR from the closed T3, gate 142, you had to check in at T1 and walk the 15 mins through the internal corridor to a cold, dark T3 and stand in the corridor until boarding.

        So the internal path still exists, I was forced down it several times in the past 2 years. But since the reopening they have reverted to forcing people outside again.

    • Dutch Orange says

      The division for the shopping is normal at UK (and European) airports. It’s related to duty free. So, even the third ranking airport, Liverpool JL, has the same divide, yet it’s rating is much higher. Similar for the closure of the corridors: in the days when the UK was still in the Eu they had to provide a Schengen terminal, to allow for easy travel across the EU zone. They were in every airport, and Manchester Airport had no real say in it. As for hotels being ridiculously expensive, the airport does not control the pricing for airport hotels. Admittedly, there is no budget chain hotel at the airport, but again, that is not really under control of the airport.
      Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty left to complain about in Manchester Airport. I always wonder why there are about 50 self check desks when arriving, just scan your passport and you’re through, but there is only ever 3 or 4 open…. Signposting is poor, so I stood for ages in the wrong queue: apparently, EU passports go in the UK lanes…..and that was after Brexit!!!
      Customer service is non existing and I once was not allowed to check in and enjoy my 3 hours in the (paid for) lounge, as travellers were getting confused with the three departures to the same destination and missed flights. When you then complain no reply at all.
      So yeah, it’s poor, but some things have been out of their control, in all fairness.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha – I can’t say I’m hugely surprised to see that! My recent flight out of LBA was a dream in comparison to my usual Manchester travails.

  3. Niall says

    They absolutely are the worst and a lot of it is security and training. That they blame covid for problems which started long before shows their complete lack of awareness.

  4. Kevin Oldfield says

    I use Manchester a lot as a KLM / Air France frequent flyer. Terminal 3 was always bad prior to Covid which is probably why KLM / Air France changed to T2. T2 is more modern and not as bad but security process is the worst. As a Sky Priority / Sky Team Elite Plus customer, I usually have no problems with check in but there is usually a delay at security. In T3, KLM used the 1903 lounge which was great but now at T2 they use Escape which is very basic.

  5. Richard Talbot says

    The last time I was there parked my car in terminal 2 multi storey headed to the station. I had to walk outside the terminal due to business issue with the interlinking bridge. None of the moving walkways were working. The time before flew into t3 had to leave the terminal walk in the rain to t1 past a few smokers to get to the station. On the way back security didn’t recognise BA club as gaining priority security I was told I would have to pay extra. Also got told off by security for having too many asthma inhalers on me. 2 blue and my preventer and a smart device was too many – I was told people usually only have 1 inhaler with them. They let me off and told me to hurry up as I was holding up the line. I try and avoid flying into it but the parking is cheaper than parking in central Manchester.

  6. David Balcon says

    Coincidentally I experienced this horrendous excuse for an airport Tuesday and unfortunately will again tomorrow flying BA. (Had my first experience pre-COVID and underwhelmed hardly believing such boarding gates could still exist with too many stairs, long dank hallways and a holding pen not even fit for animals going to the slaughter!.)

    Where to start this trip (aside from the fact Northern Rail appears to be cancelling trains to the airport between both Manchester and Liverpool with little or no notice! But there is the mile long walk from T3 to the train station and no train information boards in the terminals, only lifts in T2 to get up to the appropriate level and hundreds of people waiting to get on or off! And too many uncovered outdoor walkways to navigate in a downpour (as seems to happen most afternoons!).

    Why is BA in the one of the worst terminal buildings I’ve experienced in 50 years of traveling the world? At least there are expected horrors in underdeveloped countries and India, but in the UK’s 2nd city serving that and Liverpool?!

    When BA had a lounge it was sweltering hot (no AC in evidence in the whole terminal)…will see what the Aspire is like tomorrow.

    Was the airport spokesperson serious? The terminal has been a disaster pre-COVID and couldn’t get worse. Crowding is not new. T3 should have been either levelled completely during COVID and rebuilt, or at least renovated to fix its worst features (those gate paddocks).

    Who owns and operates this boil on the body of the English countryside? How can any civic official in Manchester abide by this horrendous introduction to their otherwise progressive city?

    • dave says

      It’s owned by a holding company which also owns Stansted and East Mids. The holding company is co owned by the 10 greater manchester councils and IFM Investors.

      If you cast your mind back a couple of decades T3 was built purely for BA until they pulled all their european and transatlantic flights from the regions. It’s pretty clear that MAG are still punishing BA for that by running the LHR shuttle from that ridiculous gate.

      Everything about T3 is broken and it’s clear that the operators have no intention to ever improve the passenger experience. There’s many small and relatively inexpensive changes they could make that would do so but they have no incentive at all.

      I’ve travelled through just under a hundred airports in my life and transited manchester 130+ times. I can confidently say that none offered a worse customer experience. Even an 8 hour layover at Cairo, held in a crowded corral with no passport and virtually at gunpoint was more fun.

      • Craig Sowerby says

        I was going to mention “owned by the council” as well. But since Heathrow has private ownership but is also mostly rubbish, I didn’t see the point of bringing out our inner Maggie Thatcher to debate the merits of public vs. private ownership. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *