More flights departed late from Heathrow in the first three months of the year than at any time since the introduction of heightened security measures in August 2006.
Delays at the airport were significantly worse than a year ago and the worst since 2001, affecting 44% of flights compared with 35% in the first quarter of last year.
Heathrow’s poor performance reduced the overall punctuallity at UK airports from 72% to 68% year on year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. A flight is considered late if it is delayed by more than 15 minutes.
However, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham airports all showed an improvement in on-time performance for scheduled services. Luton showed the biggest improvement with 76% of flights on time, up from 71%. Gatwick’s on-time record improved from 68% to 72% and Stansted’s from 78% to 80%.
Airport operator BAA blamed Heathrow’s poor show on the chronic congestion that leads to air traffic restrictions whenever there is adverse weather. The troubled opening of Terminal 5 contributed, but came only four days from the end of the quarter.
The punctuality of charter flights fell from 65% of services to 62% year on year, with only Stansted showing an improvement. Average charter delays also lengthened from 27 to 28 minutes. The average scheduled-flight delay was 18 minutes, up from 16 a year ago.