Travel News

Flight delays worse than before pandemic despite surge in fares

Simon Calder’s Travel

Flight delays at UK airports was significantly below pre-pandemic levels last year despite a surge in air fares, new research has shown.

Authorities said one of the biggest challenges to punctuality last year was air traffic control disruption in the UK and across Europe.

System failures, staff shortages and strike action affected flights throughout 2023.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) figures show just 64% of flights departed or arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled time in 2023.

That is up from 63% during the previous 12 months, but down from the pre-coronavirus level of 75% in 2019.

In the final three months of the year, the airport with the worst punctuality was Gatwick, where 63% of flights were on time.

It was followed by Edinburgh, Heathrow and Stansted, which each had a figure of 65%.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show average air fares for flights to and from the UK between July and September 2023 were 24% more expensive than the same period a year earlier.

Last month, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary predicted the airline’s tickets will be up to 10% more expensive this summer compared with last year due to delays in the delivery of new planes from Boeing.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary speaking during a press conference at the Spencer Hotel in Dublin

(Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

The CAA said it is “reminding airports and airlines of their obligations to passengers”.

Depending on the length of a flight delay, passengers may be entitled to support such as food and drink, overnight accommodation, alternative travel arrangements and compensation.

CAA head of consumer Anna Bowles told the PA news agency: “As passenger numbers return to pre-pandemic levels it is important that on-time performance continues to improve to ensure that passengers receive the service they deserve and expect.

“We also want to make sure that passengers are protected by equipping them with essential advice and ensuring they are aware of their rights before they go on holiday.”

The CAA also revealed that short-notice flight cancellations in 2023 were at the highest level for at least eight years, excluding 2020 when the virus crisis caused major disruption to travel.

Some 1.8% of flights at UK airports were cancelled within 24 hours of the scheduled departure, compared with 0.9% in 2019.

Some 276 million passengers passed through…

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