TPG UK special report: The best and worst UK airports

Feb 26, 2020

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The experience of how you begin and end your journey can make or break a trip. The airport experience can be a dreamy, relaxing start, or it can be a thing of nightmares. Each and every airport has its quirks and nuances, and so we took it upon ourselves to dig deep into the facts and data to figure out the very best and worst of airports that the United Kingdom has to offer.

Check out what it was like to fly from the UK’s worst airport to the best

Many people don’t have a choice of what airport they fly from, so in addition to guiding your choices where possible, we are using the opportunity to celebrate the airports that are doing best, and for the ones not quite nailing it, to encourage them to try harder next year.


Opinions run strong when it comes to airports, so we wanted to keep our results as objective as possible. Firstly, we decided to include the largest 20 airports in our report, based on passenger numbers from 2018. From London Heathrow, with its whopping 80 million annual passengers, to baby Doncaster Sheffield at the other end, with a modest 1.2 million for the year.

Each airport was ultimately scored out of 100. This score was made up of results in the following three different categories, each given equal weighting:

1. Amenities

This section includes the ratio of restaurants to passengers, the ratio of lounges to passengers, the ratio of spas to passengers, the ratio of kid area to passengers and the ratio of jet bridges to flight movements.

2. Commute

This section includes drive time to the city centre, public transport time to the city centre, public transport cost to the city centre, parking costs and rideshare costs.

3. On-time flights

This section includes minimum connection time between flights, delays (percentage of flights 0-15 minutes late and average overall delays of flights), presence of eGates at passport control and cancellations.

With hours of research completed and compiled utilising data from the Civil Aviation Authority, data gathered directly from the airports, local public transport organisations and taxi firms, rideshare apps and ExpertFlyer, which is owned by TPG’s parent company Red Ventures, each section was averaged to produce the scores and our final rankings to reveal the best and worst airports in the U.K, and everything in between.

The best airport in the U.K.

With a solid score across both commute and timeliness, Glasgow Airport comes out as our champion. Heathrow, the largest airport in the country, takes the silver spot and was head and shoulders above the rest when it came to amenities, with its plethora of lounges, spas and eatery options, but this wasn’t enough to carry its particularly low commute score.

A special mention goes to George Best Belfast City Airport, which came out on top in two categories — commute and on-time performance — but a poor amenity score meant it only nabbed the bronze medal overall.

Here are the top five airports in the U.K., according to our results:

  1. Glasgow Airport (GLA)
  2. London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
  3. George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD)
  4. Newcastle Airport (NCL)
  5. Edinburgh Airport (EDI)

The worst airport in the U.K.

With a bottom three result for on-time performance, a dead last place for commute and a low amenity score, the wooden spoon goes to one of the London airports, Stansted.

Shockingly, it was one of three London airports that languished in the bottom five. By branding themselves as London airports, they attracted the same city centre commute point of Trafalgar Square that was also used for Heathrow and London City. As a result, all three were hit with weak commute scores.

Here are the five worst airports in the U.K., according to our results:

  1. London Stansted Airport (STN)
  2. London Southend Airport (SEN)
  3. Aberdeen Airport (ABZ)
  4. London Luton Airport (LTN)
  5. Belfast International Airport (BFS)

Full list of ranked airports:

Reporting by Elizabeth Wilkie.

Featured photo by Borodatch/Getty Images.

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