Research from UK consumer advice magazine Which? Has found that a quarter of passengers traveling via Leeds Bradford Airport earlier this year endured waiting times of an hour or more when passing through security.
Which? surveyed 1,296 adults who travelled from a UK airport between mid-February 2022 and mid-August 2022. Respondents were asked to provide an estimate of how long they queued through security on their most recent flight.
Of those surveyed, Leeds Bradford had the longest wait times, with respondents spending an average of 35 minutes in security queues. A quarter (27%) of those who passed through the airport reported queue times of more than an hour, compared with just 5% of respondents overall.
In August 2022, Leeds Bradford acknowledged the issues passengers were facing as a result of long queues and installed LCD screens to provide travelers live updates on estimated wait times.
Overall, there were nine airports in Which?’s survey where travelers reported having experienced security queues of over an hour, including Bristol (17% of respondents), Birmingham (11%), and Manchester (8%). Seven per cent of respondents said they had missed a flight because they were stuck in excessively long queues.
City Airport in East London was the best performing airport, with an average estimated security queue time of just 12 minutes, and as many as half (50%) of travelers reporting wait times of between just five and 10 minutes. It was also the only London airport not to record any wait times of over an hour.
Last month, Which? revealed that City was among the best airports in the UK, after it ranked joint third in a survey of almost 7,500 Which? members, who were asked to rate their experiences at UK airports over the past two years.
City distinguished itself as the only London airport to rank in the national top five, and was awarded an impressive five stars across all queue types, from check-in, bag-drop, security, passport control and baggage reclaim. Respondents who rated the airport highly praised their experience as ‘slick’, ‘pleasant’ and ‘painless’.
Belfast City and Glasgow International were also among the airports to have performed well on security queue times, each having an average wait of 13 minutes, according to respondents. As many as 30% of those who used Belfast City reported waiting less than five minutes to pass through security, with a similar figure of 31% reported at Glasgow International.
Guy Hobbs, editor of Which? Travel, said, “Travelers this year have borne the brunt of unprecedented chaos at UK airports, with huge numbers enduring long queues and some even missing a flight due to excessive wait times to clear security.
“Your choice of airport shouldn’t make or break your holiday – but for too many travelers this year, that has been the case. We’d recommend choosing an airport with a better record on queues and treatment of passengers, even if that involves travelling slightly further from home.”
The Which? table of average reported security wait time in minutes found the following: London City, 12; Belfast City, 13; Glasgow International, 13; Newcastle, 15; London Gatwick, 16; Edinburgh, 16; London Stansted, 18; Belfast International, 18; London Luton, 19; London Heathrow, 20; Manchester, 24; Birmingham, 24; Bristol, 30; Leeds Bradford, 35.
Which? also requested queue security data from the UK’s eight busiest airports as well as London City and Leeds Bradford, noting that airports are not required to publish this data, and that this data is collected differently at different airports.
Heathrow and Edinburgh Airports both said that 90% of passengers got through security within 15 minutes. Gatwick Airport didn’t respond but its published figures show there were seven security queues where passengers waited more than 30 minutes in July 2022 and six in June. It said around 96% of passengers got through in 15 minutes or less.
Manchester Airport said that 90% of passengers in the same period got through security in less than 30 minutes – but it acknowledged that some had a much worse experience. It said that it was hit by recruitment problems in the spring after pandemic restrictions were lifted, but that queue times had significantly improved by August.
Luton and London City Airport said the average wait time for security for that period was seven minutes.
Stansted Airport said, “The overwhelming majority of passengers passed through security in well under 10 minutes.”
Bristol Airport said that average security queues took 27 minutes. It also said that 82.2% of customers passed through security in less than 20 minutes.
Birmingham declined to provide data to Which? and at the time of publication of its report, Leeds Bradford had not replied.