HEATHROW: UK’s worst Airport

London Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world and the letters LHR are instantly recognizable to any frequent traveller. Yet, as often is the case in life, the busiest does not mean the best! A recent survey by consumer Watchdogs has branded Heathrow along with Gatwick and Stansted as the worst in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly all these airports have one significant thing in common, they are operated by the best described as shameful BAA; so much for the monopoly! Dissatisfaction with BAA run airports has been common knowledge amongst the British and the poor international frequent transit passengers for some years now. However, now there is proof for this general feeling, following a customer satisfaction survey involving 9,000 people that was carried out by the consumer watchdog Which? Subsequently the findings are not surprising, with complaints varying from the dreaded “Long Queues” at security to “long waiting times” for flights, poor food quality, not enough time for shopping (a consequence of long queues) and the general treatment from security, which can range from patronizing to condescending.

Terminal 1 finished rock bottom of the Which report? The west London airport's Terminals 2, 3, and 4 were the next least-popular amongst those polled. London Gatwick's two terminals (North & South) only finished just above the Heathrow terminals, so the BAA performance state of affairs is pretty miserable. As reported earlier in the year by Perpetual Traveller however, T5 scored well for shopping & eating and is overall a significant improvement from T1, T2, T3 and T4, though too little, too late for the consumers to stomach.

Communication in the form of Signs and flight details were considered poor at Heathrow Terminals 1-4 and also at Manchester's Terminal 1 and at Coventry airport.

Southampton Airport, which is the hub of low cost airline Fly Be, scored the best of the seven airports operated by BAA with an overall score of 71% . Top of the crop all things considered with an overall score of 80%, was Blackpool airport, with London City airport (78%) second and Doncaster Sheffield (formerly Robin Hood) coming in third place with 76%.

So what does the Monopoly of BAA actually own and operate? Well here is the list of passenger unfriendly BAA controlled airports in alphabetical order… 

· Aberdeen Airport

· Edinburgh Airport*

· Glasgow International Airport

· London Gatwick Airport*

· London Heathrow Airport

· London Stansted Airport*

· Southampton Airport

* This denotes the airports BAA are currently Selling

For clarification of the Which report, here are the 10 best operated airports in the UK, which clearly indicates what a poor job BAA are doing…


1. Blackpool airport - Annual passengers: 439,200 - Best feature: Check-in, food outlets, airside amenities, return waiting times, experience Worst feature: Shops Score: 80 per cent

2. London City

3. Doncaster Sheffield

4. Exeter

5. Southampton (BAA operated)

6. Humberside

7. Norwich

8. Bournemouth

9. Inverness

10. Durham Tees Valley



1. Heathrow Terminal 1 (BAA operated) Annual passengers: 14.3 million Best features: None Worst features: Time and distance, shops, return waiting time, experience Score: 31 per cent

2. Heathrow T4 (BAA operated)

3. Heathrow T2 (BAA operated)

4. Heathrow T3 (BAA operated)

5. Gatwick South (BAA operated)

6. Gatwick North (BAA operated)

7. Stanstead (BAA operated)

8. Manchester

9. London Luton

10. Glasgow Prestwick

In conclusion, the Which report clearly identifies that the BAA Monopoly has occurred for too long now and the passengers that are forced to endure the BAA operated airports (being the UK’s most strategic) are sick and tired of the long queues, poor passenger services, almost perpetual building works, patronizing and rude check-in experiences, overly strict regulations, condescending security control checks and poor services.

The good news is that BAA will ultimately be forced by the body that oversees Monopolies and Mergers to sell off Gatwick, Edinburh and London Stansted. This will create some urgently required competition and hopefully increases standards.

There is however a long way to go before we can expect to receive a quality airport experience in the principle airports of the United Kingdom!

Sharon Mckinley, Publisher

Perpetual Traveller