Heathrow has warned of more flight cancellations this summer – as new analysis revealed the worst airports for delays in the UK.
The airport said it will ask airlines to axe more flights if it does not believe previous schedule reductions will be enough to reduce disruption.
The government recently ordered airlines to make sure they can deliver on their timetables and gave them amnesty to cancel flights without being penalised.
Wizz Air was the latest carrier to reveal further cuts to its schedules, by a further 5%, despite forecasting a strong summer ahead.
British Airways, Heathrow’s biggest airline, and other carriers have scrapped thousands of flights in recent weeks, while others have been beset by delays.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary.”
Heathrow apologised for service that has “not been acceptable” in recent weeks and said its staffing levels will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of July.
New analysis revealed that Heathrow had the third-poorest record for flight punctuality at UK airports last year.
Departures were an average of 11 minutes and 48 seconds behind schedule, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data by the PA news agency.
UK airports with the biggest delays last year
1. Birmingham (12 minutes and 24 seconds)
2. Southampton (12 minutes)
3. Heathrow (11 minutes and 48 seconds)
4. Exeter (11 minutes and 12 seconds)
5. Aberdeen (10 minutes and 36 seconds)
6. Doncaster Sheffield (10 minutes and 18 seconds)
7. Luton (nine minutes and 42 seconds)
8. Manchester (nine minutes and 30 seconds)
9. Glasgow (eight minutes and 30 seconds)
10. Leeds Bradford (seven minutes and 42 seconds)
The worst flight delays were at Birmingham Airport, where departures were late by 12 minutes and 24 seconds on average.
Southampton Airport had the second poorest record, with delays of 12 minutes.
Exeter and Aberdeen ranked fourth and fourth.
The research looked at all scheduled and chartered departures.
The most punctual airport was Southend, where flights were only two minutes and 48 seconds late on average.
This was followed by Belfast International and Teesside International, which had delays of more than four minutes.
Birmingham Airport said many of its delayed departures were able to make up time in the air because there were fewer flights running during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Last year was a dark time for aviation when Birmingham Airport was reduced to just 25% of normal resource and capacity due to COVID,” a spokesperson said.
“Due to the unique operating environment caused by massive air traffic reductions, the usual pressures did not exist, so flights taking off late were able to catch up en route.”
Overall, punctuality across UK airports last year was better than before COVID-19 because fewer flights were taking off.
2022 has been ‘a different story’
Jo Rhodes, an expert at consumer magazine Which? Travel, said 2022 “has been a different story entirely” as the sector is struggling to cope with the spike in passenger numbers.
She said holidaymakers “have endured wide-scale flight cancellations as well as unacceptably long queues at check-in, bag drop and airport security”.
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“The government must take action to restore consumer confidence in travel,” she said.
“That should involve stronger powers for the CAA, including the ability to fine airlines directly when they break the law.
“Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for delayed or cancelled domestic flights.”
Airports have struggled to recruit enough workers to deal with increased demand after many in the industry lost their jobs.