Best and worst UK airports: where do Heathrow, Manchester and Exeter rank in Which? airport survey?

Doncaster Sheffield airport, which is closing indefinitely, topped the list for customer satisfaction

Manchester Airport has been named the worst in the UK by a consumer watchdog in a new ranking.

Which? Travel’s ranking of the best and worst aviation hubs saw Manchester’s terminals 1, 2 and 3 rank in the bottom three places, with Terminal 3 scoring a meagre 38 % customer satisfaction.

The airport was awarded just one star out of five for the queues at security gates, seating, prices in shops and its range of retailers, and was branded as “chaotic”, “heaving” and an “end-to-end shambles” by passengers. Terminal 1 and 2 ranked slightly higher at 41% and 47% satisfaction respectively, although were also rated poorly for queue times.

The best and worst UK airports have been named by Which? (Composite: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld)

Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4 was ranked fourth from the bottom with a 48% satisfaction rating, followed by Belfast International, also on 48%, and Heathrow Terminal 3 on 51%.

Manchester airport apologised to passengers and said coming out of the Covid lockdown had left it facing “unprecedented challenges as demand returned rapidly to the market”.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson 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. At one stage passenger numbers at Manchester Airport dropped to just 5% of normal levels and airports around the world had to cut costs just to survive.

“The hugely competitive employment market and delays in training and vetting meant there were times when we were unable to keep up with passenger demand, which resulted in longer waiting times than we would like.”

Meanwhile, Heathrow dismissed the survey as “amateur” with “inaccurate and misleading conclusions”. A Heathrow spokesperson said: “What is clear is that Heathrow has faced unprecedented growth this year, as passenger numbers rose faster and higher than any other European hub, with more than 18 million passengers using the airport this summer.

“After the two years of international travel lockdown, this was always going to be a tough year and colleagues across the airport have put in a monumental effort to meet those challenges. Our focus continues to be on building back capacity so that we can deliver the consistent, high-quality service our passengers expect at Heathrow.”

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At the top end of the list, Doncaster Sheffield airport was the highest rated in the UK, but as it is closing indefinitely, Which? has removed it from its official ranking. The airport had a score of 85% for customer satisfaction based on queues through security and baggage claim, shops, ample seating and toilet facilities.

The removal of Doncaster Sheffield from the list means Exeter Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport are tied in first place, with a rating of 83% satisfaction each. London City airport is ranked joint third with Southampton on 77%, followed by Bournemouth on 76%.

The list, produced by Which?, was based on a survey of 7,469 people rating 7,963 airport experiences during the peak travel month of August this year.

Guy Hobbs, the editor of Which? Travel said: “This year we’ve witnessed unprecedented chaos at many of the UK’s largest airports. Travellers reported extensive queues and unhelpful staff, with resources pushed to breaking point.

“Just a few years ago, travellers may have paid little attention to their choice of airport – but now it may just make or break your trip. Wherever possible, we’d recommend opting for smaller airports, which have generally offered a smoother and less stressful experience for their passengers over the last two years.”

Which are the best and worst airports in the UK?

Listed is the full ranking of UK airports based on customer satisfaction, from best to worst, according to Which?:

  1. Exeter - 83% customer satisfaction
  2. Liverpool John Lennon - 83% customer satisfaction
  3. London City - 77% customer satisfaction
  4. Southampton - 77% customer satisfaction
  5. Bournemouth - 76% customer satisfaction
  6. Newcastle - 75% customer satisfaction
  7. Cardiff - 73% customer satisfaction
  8. Inverness - 73% customer satisfaction
  9. Belfast City - 67% customer satisfaction
  10. East Midlands - 67% customer satisfaction
  11. Glasgow International - 63% customer satisfaction
  12. London Heathrow T5 - 60% customer satisfaction
  13. Edinburgh - 58% customer satisfaction
  14. Birmingham - 56% customer satisfaction
  15. Bristol - 56% customer satisfaction
  16. London Gatwick North - 56% customer satisfaction
  17. London Gatwick South - 55% customer satisfaction
  18. Aberdeen - 54% customer satisfaction
  19. London Stansted - 54% customer satisfaction
  20. Leeds Bradford - 52% customer satisfaction
  21. London Heathrow T2 - 52% customer satisfaction
  22. London Luton - 52% customer satisfaction
  23. London Heathrow T3 - 51% customer satisfaction
  24. Belfast International - 48% customer satisfaction
  25. London Heathrow T4 - 48% customer satisfaction
  26. Manchester T2 - 47% customer satisfaction
  27. Manchester T1 - 41% customer satisfaction
  28. Manchester T3 - 38% customer satisfaction