Birmingham Airport worst for flight delays and cancellations, data shows

Passenger at Birmingham Airport had to endure long queues over the Easter break, with some people even missing their flights

New figures reveal which UK airports were hit hardest by disruption over the Easter break, when holidaymakers faced mass delays and cancellations.

April saw flight punctuality fall to its lowest levels so far this year at the vast majority of large UK airports, analysis of data from the Civil Aviation Authority shows.

Southampton Airport fared worst for cancellations in April, with 4% of flights called off. But when looking at the data for delays and cancellations Birmingham Airport comes out as the poorest performing with 41% of flights disrupted.

Only flights cancelled at short notice are counted in the statistics. Cancelled flights are defined as those which are called off within 24 hours of the scheduled departure time. Officials count a flight as delayed if it is more than 15 minutes late.

The data has been revealed as it has emerged that Birmingham Airport chief executive Nick Barton’s annual wage increased from £399,500 to £595,000 last year.

Jane Nellist, president of Coventry Trade Union Council, said the pay was “absolutely disgraceful” but airport board member John McNicholas said it was “paying the appropriate rate”.

Staff shortages, among security staff in particular, have caused major issues for travellers at Birmingham Airport which received £12.8m of public money from the government to support it during the Covid pandemic.

It also laid off 43% of its staff during the period, when the business was forced to virtually shut down. It has been seeking to fill gaps as demand for travel returns.

Passengers were forced to queue outside the terminal at Birmingham Airport this morning (21 June)

What do the figures show for Birmingham?

Looking at delays as well as cancellations, Birmingham Airport fared the worst, with only 59% of flights (out of 3172) arriving and departing on time in April.

It means out of 5380 flights in April at Birmingham Airport, 2182 (40.6%) were delayed. A total of 26 fllights at the airport were also cancelled (0.5%) in April. In January 2022, 81.3% of flights were on time at Birmingham Airport, this figure fell to 70.21% in February 2022, and rose to 80.2% in March 2022.

A passenger scrutinises airport information boards. Photo: AdobeStock

What about other airports?

Birmingham was followed by Manchester Airport, with a punctuality rate of 59%, and Doncaster Sheffield Airport, at 60%.

East Midlands International Airport had the best punctuality record, with 84% of flights arriving or leaving on schedule, followed by Exeter at 81% and London City at 78%.

Many people have been keen to return to taking trips abroad after years of lockdowns and restrictions, but the number of travellers remained well below pre-pandemic levels that month, the figures show.

Plans to prevent cancellations

Aviation experts say it is a lack of trained and vetted staff, both within airports and on airlines, that is at the root of the problems. On Tuesday (June 21), the Government set out plans which aim to prevent last-minute flight cancellations during the summer peak.

The regulations will allow a one-off ‘amnesty’ on airport slots rules, allowing airlines to deliver a more realistic summer schedule based on their staffing levels. The Department for Transport said this was being provided as an exceptional measure while the aviation industry recruits the necessary workers.

Flight slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports, giving an airline permission to use the runway, terminal and gates at an airport on a specific date and time.

Airlines must use slots a certain amount of times each season in order to keep them. However, many parts of the sector have been unable to recruit enough staff in time to fly the number of flights they have planned for, leading to flights being cancelled at short notice.

Subject to approval by Parliament, the Government will now give airlines a short window to temporarily hand back slots for the rest of the summer season that they are not confident they will be able to operate. Ministers said this would help passengers find alternative arrangements ahead of time, rather than face the kind of last-minute cancellations seen over the Easter and half-term holidays.

What’s been said about the plans?

Aviation Minister Robert Courts said: “This is a hugely challenging time for our recovering aviation industry, but we cannot have a situation where passengers arrive at the airport just to have their flight cancelled or face long delays.”

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Providing passengers with certainty this summer is vital and this intervention will help to relieve the pressures we see being experienced by the aviation industry and its customers. Short-term measures are welcomed, but a continued focus on the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges is crucial for consumer confidence this summer.”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “This is a welcome step that will help build greater resilience into operations this summer, coming on top of measures already taken by the sector. We will continue to work with ministers and the whole aviation ecosystem to ensure the summer peak runs as smoothly as possible for our passengers.”

Birmingham Airport has been contacted for a comment

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