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Manchester Airport: nearly half of flights delayed and dozens cancelled over busy holiday period, figures show

The international travel hub hit the headlines in April with chaotic scenes at the terminals and long queues causing misery for passengers over the Easter break.

The extent of misery for travellers at Manchester Airport caused by the much-publicised disruption during the Easter holidays has now been revealed by data.

There were thousands of delayed flights from the travel hub in April, with four in 10 setting off late.

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The numbers come from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and have been analysed by our sister title NationalWorld.

Manchester was once again among the worst-performing airports for delays and cancellations in April, after coming bottom of the heap in NationalWorld analysis of the first three months of the year, but handled a far greater volume of flights than some of the other places which most struggled.

The airport said it works hard to minimise delays but there were many factors influencing whether planes took off on time or not.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The data shows that some four in 10 flights leaving Manchester Airport in April were delayed (40.1%).

This was the third-worst delay rate behind Birmingham (40.6%) and Doncaster (40.5%).

However, Manchester had far more aircraft leaving late than either of these two as it handles much higher levels of air traffic, with the figures showing 4,996 planes left the asphalt late in April.

Just 59% of all flights, some 7,359 journeys, departed from Manchester on time in April.

A passenger scrutinises airport information boards. Photo: AdobeStock

This was a significant reduction from the punctuality rate of 72.3% the airport recorded for the whole of the first quarter of 2022.

In addition, 118 flights were cancelled altogether.

The data counts any flight as delayed if it took off more than 15 minutes late, while a cancelled flight is one which was called off within 24 hours of the scheduled departure time.

What has Manchester Airport said?

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “It is disappointing that many passengers travelling through our airport in April experienced delays, which will be for various reasons.

“A number of different factors can affect airlines’ flight schedules, including technical issues, staff sickness, late arrivals of flights into Manchester, adverse weather, and global air traffic control delays.

“Many of these pressures are being felt across Europe and that is reflected in on-time performance data for most airports and airlines.

“We work closely with airlines, handling agents and air traffic control to minimise delays as far as reasonably possible.”

What is behind the figures and what is happening now to deal with problems at airports?

Analysis of the CAA figures by NationalWorld shows flight punctuality fell to its lowest levels so far this year at the vast majority of large UK airports in April as holidaymakers faced mass delays.

Despite the fact that thousands of flights at Manchester were delayed, causing issues for many travellers, figures show that overall passenger numbers were still well below pre-Covid levels in April.

Aviation experts say it is a lack of trained and vetted staff, both within airports and on airlines, that is at the root of the problems.

On Tuesday (June 21), the Government set out plans which aim to prevent last-minute flight cancellations during the summer peak.

Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport in Manchester. (Pic credit: Oli Scarff / AFP via Getty Images)

The regulations will allow a one-off ‘amnesty’ on airport slots rules, allowing airlines to deliver a more realistic summer schedule based on their staffing levels. The Department for Transport said this was being provided as an exceptional measure while the aviation industry recruits the necessary workers.

Flight slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports, giving an airline permission to use the runway, terminal and gates at an airport on a specific date and time.

Airlines must use slots a certain amount of times each season in order to keep them. However, many parts of the sector have been unable to recruit enough staff in time to fly the number of flights they have planned for, leading to flights being cancelled at short notice.

Subject to approval by Parliament, the Government will now give airlines a short window to temporarily hand back slots for the rest of the summer season that they are not confident they will be able to operate.

Ministers said this would help passengers find alternative arrangements ahead of time, rather than face the kind of last-minute cancellations seen over the Easter and half-term holidays.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, said: “Providing passengers with certainty this summer is vital and this intervention will help to relieve the pressures we see being experienced by the aviation industry and its customers.

“Short-term measures are welcomed, but a continued focus on the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges is crucial for consumer confidence this summer.”