The annual survey from the consumer group saw almost 4,000 people asked about their experiences at airports in the between June 2022 and June 2023, with ratings given across 11 categories – including seating, staff, toilets and queues at check in, bag drop, passport control and security.
A final customer score was then calculated based on overall satisfaction and likeliness to recommend, and Manchester’s terminal 3 found itself at the rock-bottom of the list, with a score of 38 per cent – though the airport has blasted the research as “deeply flawed”.
Terminal 3 scored a lamentable one star for seating, prices in shops, and queues at check-in, bag drop and security.
It scored no higher than two stars in any other category. One traveller complained of “huge queues” at check-in, branding the situation a “joke”, while others dubbed the airport experience “crowded, noisy, generally stressful” and “dispiriting from start to finish”. Multiple respondents reported long queues at various points throughout, and claimed the airport was “overcrowded”.
Manchester’s terminal 1 came in second-to-last place with a score of 44 per cent. It received a host of one- and two-star ratings but managed to pick up three stars for the range of shops.
Manchester’s Terminal 2 was also in the bottom five with a score of 50 per cent, just ahead of Luton and Birmingham’s airports (both 49 per cent).
Birmingham Airport performed worst when it came to standing in the security queue, with an average reported wait time of 29 minutes. Manchester also ranked poorly, with average times of 28 minutes (terminal 3), 26 minutes (terminal 2) and 25 minutes (terminal 1).
On the other end of the scale, Liverpool John Lennon Airport tops the charts with a score of 82 per cent.
Customers praised their experience in Merseyside as “first class” and gave it five stars for check-in and security queues – indicating an uncommonly hassle-free experience.
It also scored four stars for staff, with multiple respondents praising them as both “friendly” and “helpful”. It also achieved four stars for baggage reclaim and queues at bag drop and passport control. One traveller said it was a “well run, efficient airport” while another lauded it as their “preferred” airport.
In close second was London City Airport, with an overall score of 78 per cent and five stars for queues at check-in and security, where new scanners have recently been installed, meaning passengers no longer have to follow the 100ml limit on liquids or remove electronics from their bags, which one person described as a “game-changer”. Respondents also praised the airport’s “relaxed” atmosphere.
London City had some of the lowest security waiting times of any airport in the survey, with an average estimated queue of just 10 minutes, beaten only by Aberdeen and Southampton, which both had average waits of nine minutes.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Choosing the right airport isn’t often high on travellers’ holiday checklists, but taking the time to think about where you’re flying from can really pay dividends.
“We’d recommend opting for a smaller airport, as our survey shows they generally tend to perform better on queue times and customer service, giving holidaymakers the positive start to their holidays they should expect.”
A spokesperson for Manchester Airport told The Independent that it was “committed to providing a great experience to all passengers”.
“We take all customer feedback seriously, but the Which? survey creates a deeply flawed and misleading picture of the service we are providing to our customers this summer. The survey is out of date – covering June 2022-June 2023 and not including the majority of this summer season – and is also based on a tiny and unrepresentative sample of the 25 million passengers who travel through Manchester Airport each year,” they added.
“Year-by-year the Which? survey becomes less and less relevant as response rates continue to dwindle, with half as many people surveyed this year as were 12 months ago. There were only 567 responses relating to Manchester Airport – 0.002 per cent of our annual passenger numbers.”
Surveys conducted by the airport in July and August showed that 93 per cent of passengers questioned “rated their overall satisfaction with the service they received as good, very good or excellent”, the spokesperson said.
According to the airport, 95.6 per cent of the 10.4 million people who have travelled through it since April 2023 have managed to get through security in under 15 minutes, with almost three quarters through secuirty in under five.