BIRMINGHAM Airport was the worst in the UK for flight delays last year, an investigation has found.

Departures from the West Midlands airport were an average of 12 minutes and 24 seconds late taking-off in 2021, according to analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data by the PA news agency.

Southampton Airport had the second poorest record, followed by Heathrow, Exeter and Aberdeen airports.

The ranking takes into account all scheduled and chartered departures. Cancelled flights are not included.

Birmingham Airport stressed that many of its delayed departures were able to make up time in the air because of the huge reduction in flight numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman said: "Last year was a dark time for aviation when Birmingham Airport was reduced to just 25 per cent of normal resource and capacity due to Covid.

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"Due to the unique operating environment caused by massive air traffic reductions, the usual pressures did not exist, so flights taking off late were able to catch up en route."

Birmingham is the UK's seventh busiest airport, serving long-haul destinations including Dubai, Mexico, the Caribbean and the US, as well as more than 100 short-haul routes.

It hosts bases for airlines such as Jet2, Ryanair and TUI.

The BBC recently reported that the annual wage of the airport's chief executive Nick Barton rose by 49 per cent from £399,000 to £595,000 last year.

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The airport was used by 12.6 million passengers in 2019, before the pandemic, but just 2.5 million last year.

Punctuality across all UK airports in 2021 was better than before the virus crisis, due to the reduction in flights caused by travel restrictions.

And the most reliable airport has been revealed too, with Stansted having the fewest cancellations in June 2022, while Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds Bradford also performed well.

But Jo Rhodes, an expert for consumer magazine Which? Travel, said 2022 "has been a different story entirely" as the sector is struggling to cope with the spike in passenger numbers.

She went on: "Holidaymakers have endured wide-scale flight cancellations as well as unacceptably long queues at check-in, bag drop and airport security.

"The Government must take action to restore consumer confidence in travel. That should involve stronger powers for the CAA, including the ability to fine airlines directly when they break the law.

"Ministers should also drop their ill-conceived plans to slash compensation rates for delayed or cancelled domestic flights."

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