The budget airline Wizz Air was the worst performer for UK flight delays among its peers last year, according to analysis that has raised fresh concerns about government plans to slash customer compensation schemes.
The Hungarian carrier – which operates short-haul flights from 10 UK airports including Belfast International, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Gatwick and Luton – was found to have flights running an average of 14 minutes and 24 second behind schedule in 2021, months before the latest travel chaos took hold.
Civil Aviation Authority data analysed by the PA Media identified Tui Airways as the second worst for punctuality on UK-departing flights, followed by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Loganair.
The budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair – two of the most-booked airlines in the UK – emerged as the most punctual among their peers. Only Ireland’s flag carrier, Aer Lingus, performed better, with a typical delay of three minutes and 12 seconds.
Overall, flight punctuality was better in 2021 than before the Covid pandemic due to travel restrictions that reduced the number of flights. However, the situation has deteriorated this year, with staff shortages leaving airports and airlines struggling to keep up with a rebound in travel after Covid restrictions were lifted. The recruitment problems have led to tens of thousands of flights being cancelled.
Consumer champions are calling for a U-turn on government plans to overhaul passenger compensation packages for UK flights.
“While these findings are worrying, the reality has actually been far worse for many travellers this summer,” said Guy Hobbs, the editor of the consumer magazine Which? Travel. “Holidaymakers have faced a barrage of disruption over the last few months, and these latest figures only serve to underline the need for urgent reform of the travel industry.
“The government must drop plans to slash passenger compensation for delayed and cancelled domestic flights,” Hobbs said.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced in January that it was considering overhauling rules concerning air passengers’ rights for flights within the UK as part of its post-Brexit reforms.
Currently, someone on an internal flight from Edinburgh to London is entitled to claim £220 once their flight has been delayed by three hours, unless it was caused by extraordinary circumstances such as bad weather.
The compensation payable is fixed and is not linked to the price paid by the passenger. However, under the proposed changessum would be linked to the fare, meaning a passenger who had paid £50 for a domestic flight would receive £12.50 back after a 90-minute delay.
The Department for Transport did not comment on the compensation scheme overhaul, but said it was up to the travel sector to make sure passengers “could get away on their well-deserved summer holidays”.
The spokesperson said the government had made efforts to support the industry, including through accelerated vetting checks that were helping to speed up recruitment. “These measures are working and flight cancellations have recently fallen back to their 2019 levels following the changes, which are providing passengers with more certainty,” they said.
Wizz Air was contacted for comment.
Average flight delays from UK airports in 2021
1 Wizz Air: 14 minutes and 24 seconds
2 Tui Airways: 13 minutes and 18 seconds
3 British Airways: 12 minutes and 42 seconds
4 Virgin Atlantic: 12 minutes
5 Loganair: 11 minutes and 30 seconds
6 Air France: 11 minutes and 12 seconds
7 Lufthansa: 10 minutes
8 KLM: eight minutes and 42 seconds
9 Eastern Airways: seven minutes and 48 seconds
10 Jet2.com: seven minutes and 42 seconds
11 American Airlines: seven minutes
12 Ryanair: six minutes and six seconds
13 EasyJet: four minutes and 36 seconds
14 Aer Lingus: three minutes and 12 seconds