We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

Updated: 15 Oct 2019

Manchester the worst large UK airport for security queues

Which? Travel reveals the airports where queuing is a nightmare and the ones that let you breeze through with ease

Passengers flying through Manchester and Belfast International airports face the longest average security queue times in the country.

New research from Which? Travel reveals that travellers flying from Manchester Airport wait 16 minutes on average at security. Meanwhile, holidaymakers at Belfast International, also named the worst UK airport for 2019, queue on average a whopping 22.3 minutes.

By contrast, passengers at Gatwick and Heathrow breeze through security, with Gatwick South and Heathrow terminal five travellers waiting on average just 8.6 minutes.

To see how your closest airport performed in our survey, see our full list of the best and worst large airports and small airports.

Which airport is worst for security queue times?

We asked 4,499 passengers to provide an estimated wait time for security on their most recent visit to the airport in our recent annual airport survey.

Below are the results of large and small UK airports in our survey.

Manchester and Belfast International are worst for queues

Regular Manchester airport users won't find these results remarkable. It has scored poorly in this category at all of its terminals since our 2016 airports survey.

In 2017, Manchester repeatedly failed to hit its self-set target (negotiated with airlines) of getting 95% of travellers through security in under eight minutes. But this didn't lead to the airport improving its service; instead it simply lowered its target. It now aims for 92% within 15 minutes. It is now regularly meeting this monthly target, although in June last year it still failed.

Passengers wishing to avoid the queues at Manchester will soon be offered the chance to pay to do so. At the end of October, it plans to open a new 'private jet experience' for passengers willing to pay £50 for access.

While most small airports outperformed their larger counterparts, Belfast International bucked this trend with the longest average security queue times. Watch our undercover footage of the passenger experience at Belfast International.

Gatwick and Heathrow have the shortest queues

Gatwick and Heathrow have the lowest average security queue times for large UK airports. They are also the only two airports in the UK whose queue targets are set externally - by the Civil Aviation Authority.

They hit their queue targets, which are to get 99% of flyers through security in less than 10 minutes (Heathrow) and 98% in less than 15 minutes (Gatwick).

Our researchers know all the tips and tricks for finding the best deals on holidays, flights and car hire, saving readers money every single issue. Find out more about Which? Travel

How did your local airport do?

Luton and Stansted airports were also rated poorly by passengers expecting a faster turnaround at security, while Edinburgh and Birmingham, the two other large airports in our survey weren't much better.

For small airports, London Southend (also London's best rated airport) and Southampton impressed the most with average queue times of just 5.2 minutes.

See how your closest airport performed in our survey, see our full list of the best and worst large airports and small airports.