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"Flairports" vs "Scareports" - Cheapflights reveals the UK's Airport winners and losers

As the peak summer travel season approaches, leading global flight search and travel deals website,, has polled British travellers to discover their attitudes to the best and worst UK airports, and is offering its top tips to make the process of getting away stress-free this summer.

An independent survey of British holidaymakers conducted in June has ranked the UK’s top 15 airports by a range of criteria from the shopping experience, general cleanliness, Wi-Fi access and the bar and restaurant selection to the speed and ease of passing through security, the check-in process - and even the toilets!

The airports reviewed include Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted, Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, with the smaller regionals proving to be the stars of the show.

Newcastle Airport emerged as the overall winner, achieving high levels of satisfaction across all categories, followed closely by Edinburgh, then Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow respectively. London’s airports are lagging behind, with Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Luton all in the bottom five.   

Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of says: “Love them or hate them, millions of Brits won’t be able to avoid the UK’s airports this summer season. Our poll shows our regional airports are a clear favourite with travellers, with larger airports struggling to deliver a consistently positive passenger experience – proving that bigger isn’t always better and more choice doesn’t always equate to satisfaction.”

Newcastle topped the categories for Cleanliness (with Edinburgh and Glasgow in second and third place respectively), Toilets (again, with Edinburgh and Glasgow in second and third position), Check-In Process (Cardiff and East Midlands as runners up), Family-Friendly Facilities (sharing the top spot with Liverpool, Cardiff coming next), Immigration Experience (Cardiff and Liverpool close behind) and Airport Lounge (Edinburgh in second, and Manchester in third).

Edinburgh and Glasgow are well-liked airports and scored highly overall, but did not top any categories. However, Manchester shines when it comes to retail and leisure, stealing the top spot for Shopping Experience (beating Heathrow and Glasgow into second and third placing) and the Bar and Restaurant category (followed by Newcastle and Heathrow).

Cardiff was the champion in several categories, namely the Friendliness of the Airport Staff (pipping Newcastle and Glasgow to the post), Passing Through Security (with Newcastle and Liverpool taking the next spots) and WiFi Access (closely followed by Liverpool and Edinburgh).

The ease of small but perfectly formed airports proved much more popular than busy London hubs, with Liverpool taking the number one position for the Wait for Baggage Reclaim (Newcastle coming second, with a shared third placing for Edinburgh and Belfast International), as well as that shared top spot with Newcastle for Family-Friendly Facilities.

Luton came bottom in every category apart from one – only Stanstead was rated to have worse WiFi Access - but London’s other airports fared badly in many categories too, including Cleanliness (with Heathrow and Gatwick also sharing the bottom places), Check-In Process (Gatwick and Stanstead also scoring poorly), Friendliness of the Airport Staff (Heathrow and Stansted not raising a smile either), Family-Friendly Facilities (Heathrow and Stansted at the back of the class too), Passing Through Security (Heathrow and Stansted also at the back of the queue), Immigration Experience (Gatwick and Stansted faring badly), Wait for Baggage Reclaim (Gatwick and Stanstead not impressing either) and the Airport Lounge (Gatwick was joined by Leeds Bradford in third lowest, and Stansted second to the bottom).

Sorry southerners, but it’s not all bad news. Luton was joined in the last places by Bristol and Cardiff when it comes to the Shopping Experience, while Heathrow came second in this category. It’s a similar story when it comes to the Bar and Restaurant category, with Leeds Bradford and Bristol joining Luton with a not too tasty result at the bottom, and Heathrow coming third to top. Birmingham joins Stansted and Luton as the airports with the poorest Toilets.

“Our research reiterated once more that the airport experience remains among the most stressful aspects of going on holiday. A third of Brits actually cite it as the most taxing aspect of planning and taking an overseas holiday.

“However, those using the smaller regional airports, where the sheer volume of human traffic is lower, find the whole experience less stressful than those passing through the big hubs – with only 11% of regional airport users identifying anxiety as their primary emotion as they head to the airport.”

“On the whole though, our airports are happy places to be – arriving at them is where 30% of Brits feel ‘holiday mode’ kicks in – and is also where the majority of us post the first of our social media ‘travel brags’ as the excitement begins.”

“Our advice is to allow plenty of time for a relaxed airport experience; no holiday should start with a panicked dash to make the plane. Travellers should plan ahead - download airline apps that offer a digital boarding pass service, pre-book as much as possible when it comes to seats, transport and parking and even pre-order baby care products for collection past Security. Make the most of the airport’s facilities - buy a lounge pass to escape the crowds, purchase healthy food to take on-board, or even get a treatment at an “air-side” spa.”

“Many holidaymakers jetting off this summer will also have concerns about how Brexit will impact their travels”, continues Shelton. “Little will have changed immediately other than the value of the Pound. Travellers to Europe won’t need a visa or a new passport, they won’t have to queue in a different line to EU Nationals and they can still bring back unlimited shopping from EU countries for personal use.”

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