Which UK Airports Have the Worst Traffic Jams? A Guide for Travelers

An air traveller with air ticket.
Photo Credit: Joshua Woroniecki via Pixabay

Are you planning a trip and wondering which UK airports to avoid long queues and traffic jams? Feeling flustered figuring out how early you need to arrive?

This article reveals a recent study by claims.co.uk that will help you make informed decisions and navigate your airport experience like a seasoned traveler.

The study ranked airports based on a combination of factors that can significantly impact your travel time:

  • Yearly passenger numbers: This directly affects security queue wait times. More passengers typically mean longer queues.
  • Security queue wait times: This is a crucial factor to consider, especially if you’re prone to pre-flight jitters.
  • Local traffic data surrounding the airport: Getting to the airport on time is equally important. Heavy traffic around the airport can significantly delay your arrival.

By considering this information, you can estimate how early you need to arrive at the airport to ensure a smooth travel experience.

So which UK airports have the worst traffic jams? We take a look at the study findings.

Which UK Airports Have the Worst Traffic Jams?

London Heathrow

Taking the crown for the most challenging airport is London Heathrow. With a whopping 79.15 million passengers passing through annually, it’s easy to understand why.

That’s more flyers than the entire population of London itself! Security queues average a wait time of 20 minutes.

Heathrow is best suited for passengers who arrive early to account for potential delays caused by heavy traffic in the surrounding area.

The study estimates that roughly 3.17 million vehicles navigate the area each year, so factor this in when planning your route.

If you are based near London Heathrow and you are wanting to find cheap flights to the U.S, then take a look at some of the deals in this article.
Photo Credit: London Heathrow.

Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport follows closely behind with a score of 54.9. Passengers face longer waits both inside and outside the airport.

This can be attributed to a combination of 11.48 million yearly passengers and 2.64 million vehicles in the vicinity.

Security queues average 24 minutes, and new security equipment might lead to further delays this summer.

If you’re flying out of Birmingham, be sure to check with the airport for any updates on wait times and adjust your arrival time accordingly.

Birmingham Airport Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Figures For First Time
Photo Credit: Birmingham Airport.

Bristol Airport

Coming in third is Bristol Airport. Despite its smaller size (9.91 million passengers annually), it scores high due to heavy traffic (2.26 million vehicles) and a long average security queue wait time of 30 minutes.

While Bristol might seem like a more relaxed option compared to London Heathrow, it’s still wise to be prepared for potential delays.

Airports with a Smoother Travel Experience

Scottish Airports

If you’re looking for a more relaxed travel experience, you’ll probably enjoy flying out of Scotland. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow International Airports boast some of the quickest security queues in the UK.

 Wait times here averaged a fairly breezy 16 and 13 minutes respectively. On top of that, these airports typically experience less traffic congestion.

London City Airport

For a truly stress-free start to your trip, consider London City Airport if it’s a possibility. It boasts the fewest passengers with a mere 3.43 million annually. Coupled with the relatively light traffic (2.07 million vehicles), this makes for a short security queue wait time of only 12 minutes.

This makes it a perfect option for travelers seeking a more boutique airport experience.

Travel Tips

  • While arriving early is important, striking a balance is key. The study revealed that extremely early arrivals at Birmingham Airport, for example, can contribute to congestion. This can actually slow things down for everyone.
  • A good rule of thumb is to aim to arrive three hours before your flight for airports on the “challenging” list. This will give you ample time to navigate potential delays, check in, and relax before your flight.
  • Don’t waste precious vacation time feeling flustered! Utilize the extra time for leisurely browsing in duty-free shops or unwinding at a cafe with a good book.
  • Stay informed! Check local news and social media for updates on queue times on your flight day. This will give you a real-time picture of the situation at the airport and help you adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Follow your airline’s advice and head to your gate as soon as it opens. This will help you avoid any last-minute stress and ensure you board on time.

By following these tips and considering the information in this guide, you can navigate UK airports with confidence and ensure a stress-free start to your travels.

So, which UK airports have the worst traffic jams? Remember, a little planning goes a long way, so take charge and make your next airport experience a breeze!


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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
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